A-GaME - States Implement Measurement While Drilling!

Advanced Geotechnical Methods in Exploration (A-GaME)

An Every Day Counts Innovation

A-GaME Measurement While Drilling Technology Informs the Drilling Process


NHDOT’s Krystle Pelham with the readout from the MWD rig

As part of a project to widen and improve a major corridor, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) has instrumented a rig to use Measurement While Drilling (MWD) – an advanced geotechnical method in exploration (A-GaME) technology – to better understand the engineering properties of the soil and rock.

The project is underway along the F.E. Everett Turnpike (F.E.E.T.), which was constructed in the early 1950s and has served as a link from Central New Hampshire to US Route 3 in Massachusetts. Today it remains a vital north/south transportation corridor linking residents, communities, commerce and year-round tourists throughout NH and travel between NH and Massachusetts. This project proposes to widen portions of the roadway, improve stormwater treatment areas, and either replace or rehabilitate bridges along a 12-mile corridor.

According to Krystle Pelham, engineering geologist - geotechnical section, New Hampshire Department of Transportation, Bureau of Materials and Research, MWD is being used on this project to enhance geotechnical site characterization and provide continuous, real-time monitoring and recording of data during the drilling process.

“Using MWD allows us to add information in between our standard penetration tests (SPT) so we can get real-time information in between the 5-foot samples. Not only does that help with the site characterization, but it also helps the driller know in real-time how the drill is responding to the subsurface materials.”

NHDOT’s in-house mechanical services staff instrumented a conventional rig with sensors to measure and record parameters including torque, downward thrust, rotational speed and penetration rate. A readout on the rig allows for real-time monitoring that relates to the effort needed to penetrate the ground.

“Instrumenting the rig was definitely a unique challenge,” explains Pelham. “Our mechanical services staff had not worked with electronics added to the rig previously, but they rose the challenge and had the sensors installed and operational in one week. The benefit of having experienced in-house mechanics was what really drove our ability to do our own installation.”

Pelham reiterates that the key benefit of MWD has been the ability to measure the drilling parameters between actual testing and visual manual classification of the soils from the SPT tests. “We get to have the data in between and see how it correlates to get that more complete profile without doing samples continuously.”

The benefits are endless according to Pelham, and she definitely would recommend the use of MWD to other DOTs.

“MWD is one of the only tools you can use in any type of soil or rock. It records continuously and doesn’t take any additional effort from the driller,” she points out. “It is more economical to be able to collect information continuously without getting samples and having to do the supplemental laboratory analysis. Also using MWD doesn’t have an added cost, and it doesn’t impede the work effort you are already doing because it is on the rig and it’s measuring the parameters as you are drilling instead of doing a separate, independent test.”

Now that they have a rig instrumented for MWD, NHDOT plans to use it continuously. “When the rig is in operation, we are going to be measuring while drilling,” proclaims Pelham.

A-GaME Webinar 7 Banner

A-GaME Webinar #7 focuses on Measurement While Drilling


A-GaME Webinar #7 - MWD: The Digital Drill Rig

Reduce project risks, improve quality and accelerate project delivery using effective geotechnical site characterization. Learn how to make the most of your site characterization program efforts. Watch webinar #7 in the series on the A-GaME (Advanced Geotechnical Methods in Exploration) — MWD: The Digital Drill Rig.


  • What IS Measurement While Drilling (MWD)?
  • History of MWD technology
  • MWD fundamental concepts and use in geotechnical site characterization
  • “Guidelines on MWD for Geotechnical Site Investigations”
  • Case Study: Montana’s implementation and interest in expanding MWD using Hollow-Stem Auger (HSA)


Moderator: Derrick Dasenbrock, FHWA Resource Center

Speaker: Anahita Modariasari, WSP

Speaker: Jean Benoit, University of New Hampshire

Speaker: Paul Hilchen, Montana Department of Transportation

Speaker: Nick Jaynes, Montana Department of Transportation


Watch Now


Montana DOT Implements MWD 

One of the presentations during Webinar #7 — MWD: The Digital Drill Rig —focuses on Montana DOT’s (MDT’s) implementation of Measurement While Drilling (MWD) as part of a one-year pilot program for FHWA. MDT has instrumented a rig equipped with multiple MWD sensors to collect data that delivers a continuous profile of the subsurface material. Nick Jaynes, geotech engineer with MDT, walks through the installation of MWD equipment on the department’s CME 1050 ATV drill rig, and the use of MWD to collect data on several projects. He discusses the benefits, limitations, challenges and MDT’s future plans, which he summarizes by saying, “We are really excited about getting the MWD rig out there again!”


A-Game Webinars

Deep Foundations Institute (DFI) is hosting and distributing recordings of the 2020-2021 winter webinar series, featuring the FHWA A-GaME on its YouTube Channel.

The webinars feature a variety of topics related to proven, effective exploration methods and practices for enhanced, effective site characterization that reduce project risks, improve quality and accelerate project delivery.

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