Auto-Gopher Drill

Deep planetary drills offer a wealth of information to planetary geologists and astrobiologists. The Auto-Gopher drill is a wire-line rotary-hammer drill, whose depth of penetration is limited only by the length of the wire it is suspended from.

Honeybee Robotics


ASnic frequency60 - 1000 Hz
Motor Power~90 W
Rotation Speed 245-277 RPM
Motor Voltage48 V
Motor Current~1.9 A


The Auto-Gopher employs a piezoelectric actuated percussive mechanism for breaking formations and an electric motor to rotate the drill bit and capture powdered cuttings. It incorporates a wireline architecture; the drill is suspended at the end of a small diameter tether that provides power, communication, as well as structural support needed for lowering and lifting the drill out of the borehole. 

Thanks to this unique architecture, the maximum drilling depth is limited only by the length of the tether. The wireline operation used on the Auto-Gopher removes one of the major drawbacks of traditional continuous drill string systems—the need for multiple drill sections that can add significantly to the mass and the complexity of a deep drill. As such, the Auto-Gopher system mass and volume can be kept quite low for shallow or deep holes. 

While drilling, numerous sensors and embedded instruments can perform in situ analysis of the borehole wall. Upon reaching a preset depth, the drill is retracted from the borehole, the core and/or cuttings are removed for detailed analysis by onboard instruments, and the drill is lowered back into the hole to continue the penetration process.

Auto-Gopher can be deployed from a variety of platforms, providing deep subsurface access with a small surface footprint. This technology also enables new in-situ analysis applications through integration of in-drill sensors — in essence, bringing the instruments to the deep subsurface sample


Describes the project, it's design, and fabrication & testing.

Mircea Badescu, Stewart Sherrit, Xiaoqi Bao et al. - 2011

Describes the ultrasonic/sonic driller/corer description and modeling, the gopher, tests & conclusions.

Mircea Badescu, PhD

Wevolver 2023