The Rapid Air Movement (RAM) Drill was developed for 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. The original RAM Drill was used three times in West Antarctica, where it routinely achieved depths of 90 m. The Askaryan Radio Array (ARA) project used the drill in 2010-2011 to test methods of producing holes for radio antennae at South Pole but could not get deeper than 63 m at that location.
In 2017, substantial modifications and upgrades were made to reduce the system’s logistical requirements. IDP designed and built the modified RAM 2 system. The modifications serve to dramatically reduce the system weight from approximately 24,000 lbs. to about 10,000 lbs. and will allow for easier assembly and operations in remote areas. A field test of the modified system was conducted near Raven Camp in Greenland in July 2018. Repairs and additional modifications were made prior to the drill’s deployment to Antarctica in September 2018. The system was tested by two IDP personnel at WAIS Divide during the 2019-2020 field season. The drill routinely achieved between 50-55 m, the requirement for planned field work on Thwaites Glacier. The smaller RAM 2 compressors will eventually be optimized to provide the necessary airflow for future projects.
During an abbreviated 2022-2023 Antarctic season, the RAM 2 Drill was used to drill 27 holes on a line starting at WAIS camp and extending ~32 km grid west towards Thwaites glacier, and operational data for the RAM 2 Drill system was collected.
|Name||Rapid Air Movement Drill|
|Number in Inventory||
Number in Inventory
|Max. Practical Depth||
Max. Practical Depth
95 m (the depth being limited by the length of the hose)
|IDP Driller Required?||
IDP Driller Required?
Yes, 2 drillers
|Drill Fluid Required?||
Drill Fluid Required?
|Shipping Volume (Cube)||
Optimization of the compressors (small or large) and the hose and sonde are required to meet the revised science requirements for RAM 2. Even with the large compressors, however, the drill system is not reaching the 90 m depth range of the original RAM Drill.
|Chris J Gibson, Grant Boeckmann, Zachary Meulemans, Tanner W Kuhl, Jim Koehler, Jay A Johnson, Kristina R Slawny (2021) RAM-2 Drill system development: an upgrade of the Rapid Air Movement Drill. Annals of Glaciology, 62, (84), 99-108. doi: 10.1017/aog.2020.72. https://doi.org/10.1017/aog.2020.72||2021|
|U.S. Ice Drilling Program (2020) Rapid Air Movement Drill 2 Operations and Maintenance Manual Configuration-1. 1-11.||2020|
|Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Paul Winberry, IDPO (2017) Science Requirements: RAM Drill.||2017|
|Chris J Gibson, Jay A Johnson, Grant Boeckmann (2017) Rapid Air Movement (RAM) Drill Upgrade Concept Overview. 1-18.||2017|
|IDDO (2017) Rapid Air Movement (RAM) Drill Upgrade Conceptual Design Review. 1-26.||2017|
|Rusheng Wang, Liu An, Pinlu Cao, Baoyi Chen, Mikhail Sysoev, Dayou Fan, Pavel Talalay (2017) Rapid ice drilling with continual air transport of cuttings and cores: General concept. Polar Science, 14, 21-29. doi: 10.1016/j.polar.2017.09.004. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polar.2017.09.004||2017|
|Amber N Whelsky, Mary R Albert (2016) Firn permeability impacts on pressure loss associated with rapid air movement drilling. Cold Regions Science and Technology, 123, 149-154. doi: 10.1016/j.coldregions.2015.11.018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coldregions.2015.11.018||2016|
|2023-2024 Antarctic - NSF-NERC: Ground Geophysics Survey of Thwaites Glacier|
|2022-2023 Antarctic - NSF-NERC: Ground Geophysics Survey of Thwaites Glacier|
|2010-2011 Antarctic - Instrument Development of the Askaryan Radio Array, A Large-scale Radio Cherenkov Neutrino Detector at the South Pole|
|2009-2010 Antarctic - Amundsen Basin Seismic Project|
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