Automation And Robotics – Precision Drilling’s New Technology Frontier

The drilling industry in North America has seen a step change in drilling productivity with increases averaging 54% across our fleet. Lateral lengths have also increased by 50% to 100% on recent well programs. These changes would not have been possible without advancements in digital technology.

Automation and Robotics in the drilling rig industry has long been a sought-after solution for well construction consistency and efficiency. Drilling rigs have mechanically evolved and recent advancements in automation, robotics and software have promoted a modern renaissance in technology. With automation and robotics, rigs today dwell in a data intensive environment with interrelated functions. Touch screens and joysticks have turned the drillers’ doghouse into a cockpit, with drillers able to precisely control the drilling, tripping, and casing operations through digital interfaces.

Safety, equipment health, and process management are the critical concerns on drilling rigs. The potential of injury or loss of life in addition to the risk associated with rig or well downtime always play into the commercial aspects of well construction.

To help manage this co-ordination between people, machines and processes, our rigs are equipped with advanced process control systems that automate control of multiple pieces of rig equipment; drawworks, top-drive, mud pumps, slips, iron roughneck, digitally operated valves, and pipe racking.

This article is about transforming land rig drilling operations through digital automation, robotics, analytics, and pushing performance through system optimization, allowing operators to further improve their economics. The magic of automation lies in programming the automation and robotics systems. Our State-of-the-Art automation and robotics systems are programmed by our experienced crews through digital well plans that orchestrate with the control system, coercing the drilling rig to adhere to a course charted by the operator.


A rig’s automation and robotics journey on a well or pad follows a process that involves data collection and data analysis. Available to us are in excess of 70 billion tags of data that our machines produce per day. This data is leveraged through an in-house analytics platform where engineers create the ultimate digital well plans through machine learning processes.

Digital well plans house advanced algorithms to detect drilling dysfunction. Once detected, algorithms instantaneously adjust and manage drilling parameters to minimize operational impact and maximize ROP. The result is faster reaction time when compared to human interfaces with far superior consistency.

To keep performance at the highest levels while drilling and tripping, automation systems lean on engineers to further perfect each process and sub-process in the digital well plan. This is achieved through real-time data obtained from the control system. The data is parsed, machine analyzed, and then fed back into the automation and robotics system allowing for optimized closed-loop adjustments.

Further optimization through sensitizing machine functions is achieved through a variety of software applications available on demand. These applications are either programmed in-house or through a third party and have full operational functionality with the automation system. Applications are typically used to manage downhole disturbances and surface drilling dysfunction.

The automation system discussed above has been involved in the successful automation of a drilling system on over 2,800 North American wells to date. Wells drilled using the automation system have provided savings in drilling productivity of over 25% when compared to conventional mechanized drilling rigs.

The robotics system has been through 200,000 feet of tubular handling. The system has proven capability and in conjunction with the automation system makes the Precision drilling rig a truly digitized offering.

Precision Drilling’s investment in digital technologies has paid dividends to operators’ well construction productivity. Digital optimization has seen a marked transition from human to digital with 98.5% automation utilization for drilling operations. Our digitally automated rigs have seen a 300-time (screen and joystick) reduction in the touches a human (driller) makes while using innovative digital processes. This allows the driller and a 4-man crew to leverage on the automation time savings to manage other priorities to advance well construction time savings. Lastly, our next technology growth acceleration will be through the increase of robotics on our Super Triples. Robotics will automate the casing and tripping operations allowing for all rig floor workflows to be automated. Learn more about Precision’s Alpha™ Suite of Technologies on our website.

Precision is a leading provider of safe and environmentally responsible High Performance, High Value services to the energy industry, offering customers access to an extensive fleet of Super Series drilling rigs. Precision has commercialized an industry-leading digital technology portfolio known as “Alpha™” that utilizes advanced automation software and analytics to generate efficient, predictable, and repeatable results for energy customers. Additionally, Precision offers well service rigs, camps and rental equipment all backed by a comprehensive mix of technical support services and skilled, experienced personnel.

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