Despite recent advances in mine health and safety, roof collapse and instabilities are still the leading causes of injury and fatality in underground mining operations. Improving safety and optimum design of ground support requires good and reliable ground characterization. While many geophysical methods have been developed for ground characterizations, their accuracy is insufficient for customized ground support design of underground workings. The actual measurements on the samples of the roof and wall strata from the exploration boring are reliable but the related holes are far apart, thus unsuitable for design purposes. The best source of information could be the geological back mapping of the roof and walls, but this is disruptive to mining operations, and provided information is only from rock surface. Interpretation of the data obtained from roof bolt drilling can offer a good and reliable source of information that can be used for ground characterization and ground support design and evaluations. This paper offers a brief review of the mine roof characterization methods, followed by introduction and discussion of the roof characterization methods by instrumented roof bolters. A brief overview of the results of the preliminary study and initial testing on an instrumented drill and summary of the suggested improvements are also discussed. (C) 2015 Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Production and hosting by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.