It is widely acknowledged that the next significant challenge in planetary exploration is to be able to drill deeply (two meters seems the most scientifically valuable and the most technologically reasonable) into the surface of solar system bodies for chemical or physical data. Major limitation of using conventional rotary drills in low gravity environments (such as Mars, asteroids, comet, etc) is the need for high axial force, which suffers from big overhead mass, buckling problem, and power hungriness. Though drills using percussive motion may operate in low mass and power, the drilling rate is generally slow. Drawing inspiration from nature for a lightweight and energy efficient solution, we propose a novel drilling method based on the working mechanism of wood wasp ovipositors. The bio-inspired drill requires no reactive external force by applying two-valve-reciprocating motion. The proposed bio-inspired system indicates enhanced utility that is critical for space missions where premium is placed on mass, volume and power. Biological systems are similarly constrained making biomimetic technology uniquely suited and advantageous as a model of miniaturized systems. As a result of the European Space Agency (ESA) project on bionics and space system design [Ellery, 2005], this paper presents a conceptual design of the bio-inspired drill. Lab-based experiments have shown that the two-valve-reciprocating drilling method is feasible and has potential of improving drill efficiency without any additional overhead force or mass.

AISB'06: Adaptation in Artificial and Biological Systems
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Gao, Y. (Yang), Ellery, A, Jaddou, M. (Mustafa), & Vincent, J. (Julian). (2006). Bio-inspired drill for planetary subsurface sampling: Literature survey, conceptual design and feasibility study. In Proceedings of AISB'06: Adaptation in Artificial and Biological Systems (pp. 71–77).