Equipment

IDP maintains and operates existing drills and borehole logging winches, and develops new systems with two principal foci:

  1. to provide high quality ice cores, and
  2. to produce boreholes that provide access to the interior and beds of ice sheets and glaciers for such purposes as embedding instruments, collecting gas samples, setting seismic charges, studying subglacial processes, studying subglacial geology, collecting subglacial bedrock core, and borehole logging.
 

Rapid Air Movement (RAM) Drill

The Rapid Air Movement (RAM) Drill was developed for use in creating shot holes for seismic geophysical exploration. It is a system in which high-velocity air drives rotating cutters and blows the ice chips from the hole. The cutting drill motor hangs on a hose that carries the air from the surface and is reeled out as the hole deepens. It has been used three times in West Antarctica, where it routinely achieved depths of 90 meters. The Askaryan Radio Array (ARA) project borrowed the drill for the 2010-2011 Antarctic field season to test methods of producing holes for radio antennae at South Pole, but could not get deeper than 63 meters at that location.

In 2017, IDP and community scientists finalized science requirements which drove substantial modifications and upgrades to the drill system to reduce its logistical requirements. IDP completed a conceptual design for the modified system known as the RAM 2, with scalable components for either shallow (~40 meter) deployments or for full 100 meter deployments. The modifications will serve to dramatically reduce the system weight from approximately 24,000 lbs. to about 8,000 lbs. and will allow for easier assembly and operations in remote areas.

Status (RAM 2)

IDP completed final assembly and in-house testing of the modified system in early 2018. A field test was then conducted near Raven Camp in Greenland in July 2018. Repairs and additional modifications were made prior to the drill's deployment to Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica in September 2018. On Thwaites Glacier, the system will use the large compressors from the original RAM Drill to help ensure project success. The large compressors will be used to quantify the amount of air required to successfully drill to 100 meters. The smaller RAM 2 compressors will then be optimized to provide the necessary air flow.

Associated Documents

Questions or Comments

Questions or comments should be sent to Mary Albert.

Photos

The following photos are of the original RAM Drill, and do not reflect the intended modifications and upgrades to the drill system.


IDP driller Mike Jayred tests the RAM Drill during the 2010-2011 field season for the Askaryan Radio Array project at South Pole. Photo: Michael DuVernois

IDP driller Mike Jayred tests the RAM Drill during the 2010-2011 field season for the Askaryan Radio Array project at South Pole. Photo: Michael DuVernois

IDP driller Mike Jayred operates the RAM Drill at WAIS Divide, Antarctica, during the 2009-2010 field season to quickly produce shot holes for seismic investigations. Photo: John Fegyveresi

The RAM Drill at WAIS Divide, Antarctica, during the 2009-2010 field season. The RAM Drill routinely attained depths of 90 meters during the season. Photo: John Fegyveresi


Equipment Details

The following information pertains only to the original RAM Drill. See the science requirements above for information about the intended modifications and upgrades to the drill system.

Name Rapid Air Movement (RAM) Drill
Type Non-coring
Number in Inventory 1
Max. Practical Depth 95 m (the depth being limited by the length of the hose)
Hole Diameter 100 mm
Core Diameter [not applicable]
IDP Driller Required? Yes, 2 drillers
Drill Fluid Required? No
Power requirements/source None
Shipping Weight 22,664 lbs
Shipping Cube 2971 cube
Comments Weight of drill system in operation about 20,000 lbs

System Overview

The following information pertains only to the original RAM Drill. See the science requirements above for information about the intended modifications and upgrades to the drill system.


Major system components

  • Two sled mounted diesel engine driven air compressors
    • 400 cfm at 200 psi rated
  • Hose reel sled
    • Integrated drilling platform
    • 100m of 1.5" air hose
    • 6.5 kW generator
    • Spares and tool storage
  • Drill
    • Drills a 4" hole
    • Powered by compressed air

Deployment and Set-Up

  • Requires two plus LC-130 flights not including the tow vehicle
  • Heavy equipment support required to assemble the hose reel on the sled
  • 1.5 days to set up with two people
  • Shipping weight is ~22,664 lbs
  • Weight of drill system in operation about 20,000 lbs
  • Shipping volume is 2971 cubes

Drill System

  • Two 1hp air motors coupled together drive a planetary gear reducer
  • Head spins at 2500rpm
  • Four tool steel cutters
  • Two sets of centering blades
  • Drills a 4" hole
  • Adjustable booster nozzle at the top of the drill
  • Exhaust air ejects the cuttings from the hole
  • Weighs 200 lbs

Operation

  • The rig is rough positioned by the tow vehicle and then drill is fine positioned via an adjustable carriage on the drill sled
  • The speed and direction of the hose reel is controlled via a pendent
  • Ethanol is injected into the air stream to prevent icing in the hose
    • .7 L consumed per 90m hole

Past Deployment

  • 2002-03 season at Onset-D, West Antarctica
    • 226 holes drilled
    • Target depth was 60m
    • Average hole depth was 56m
    • 12,686 total meters drilled
  • 2008-09 season at upper Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica (traverse from WAIS Divide)
    • 176 holes drilled
    • Target depth was 60m
    • Average hole depth was 46m
    • 8,109 total meters drilled
  • 2009-10 season at lower Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica (traverse from WAIS Divide)
    • 132 holes drilled
    • Average hole depth was 74m
    • 9,782 total meters drilled
  • 2010-11 season at South Pole to test methods of producing holes for the Askaryan Radio Array (ARA) project
    • Drilled several holes but could not get deeper than 63 m

Performance

  • Capable of drilling to 95m
    • Firn permeability and conditions greatly effect the actual depth possible.
  • 6m per minute maximum drilling rate
  • 25 minute cycle time for a 90m hole
  • ~5 gallons of fuel consumed per hole