Scientists often use small drills to acquire core samples for the study of everything from geological classification to ocean drilling and surveying. Traditionally, petroleum engineers will use large cores to extract information about boundaries between sandstone, limestone, and shale. This process is time consuming so smaller cores are sometimes taken. This method of sampling is called sidewall coring and provides more information to the petroleum engineer than simply logged data. Scientists studying earthquake mechanics could also benefit in a similar fashion. Automation of this process would save time and money; enabling the science goals of the research with reduced schedule and budget risk/impact.
Future robotic astrobiology and geology missions such as Mars Sample Return, Astrobiology Field Laboratory and other Mid-Range Rover missions will benefit greatly from the ability to produce and capture rock and regolith cores, abrade and brush rock surfaces using an arm-deployed, compact, low mass, low power device. A system utilizing a surface drill and a suite of bits for different applications could be deployed during lunar sortie missions by astronauts (i.e., hand held coring drill) since it is desirable to bring small cores back as opposed to large rocks, and/or abrade rocks in situ.