Growing interest in planetary subsurface exploration has prompted an examination of advanced drilling technologies. One of the major limitations of sampling in low gravity environments (such as Mars, asteroids, etc.) using conventional rotary drills is the need for high axial force, which suffers from big overhead mass, buckling problems, 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 lighter weight and energy efficient solution, we propose a novel drilling method based on the working mechanism of wood wasp ovipositors. The bioinspired drill requires no reactive external force by applying two-valve-reciprocating motion. The proposed biomimetic 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 project on bionics and space system design, this paper presents a literature survey of planetary drilling, working principle of the bioinspired drilling mechanism, a conceptual design, and feasibility study of the first prototype within a space system envelope.
Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Gao, Y. (Yang), Ellery, A, Sweeting, M.N. (Martin N.), & Vincent, J. (Julian). (2007). Bioinspired drill for planetary sampling: Literature survey, conceptual design, and feasibility study. Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, 44(3), 703–709. doi:10.2514/1.23025