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Drilling automation

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Drilling automation differs from rig automation. Instead of mechanized or automated machinery that deals with surface processes, drilling automation is centered on the downhole activities necessary in the actual drilling of an oil or gas well. Today, this involves the linking of surface and downhole measurements with near real-time predictive models to improve the safety and efficiency of the drilling process.

Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section (DSATS)

SPE volunteers formed the Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section (DSATS) in 2008. The purpose of DSATS is to accelerate the development and implementation of drilling systems automation in well construction by supporting initiatives which communicate the technology, recommend best practices, standardize nomenclature and help define the value of drilling systems automation. Appropriate initiatives include workshops, forums, lectures, and technical and white papers, among others, and DSATS actively encourages participation of automation experts from outside the drilling industry. 

DSATS is working to produce an industry standard to allow communication between drilling machine control systems and external applications to optimize drilling operations.

September 2014

At a workshop in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in September 2014 the participants confirmed that OPC UA should be the preferred communication protocol. A data model was also offered and is currently being refined for publication in 2015.

Data Quality Assurance (DQA)

Drilling technologies



Drillbotics is an international competition for universities to design and build a small drilling rig  that uses sensors and control algorithms to autonomously drill a rock sample provided by SPE’s DSATS.  Recently, teams may choose to model a full scale drilling rig. The latest challenge involved directional drilling through two or more targets. Winning teams present a SPE paper about their research project. Search for Drillbotics on OnePetro.


Noteworthy papers in OnePetro

Macpherson, J.D., de Wardt, J.P., Florence, F. et al. Drilling Systems Automation: Current State, Initiatives and Potential Impact. Presented at the 2013/9/30/.

Thorogood, J. Automation in Drilling: Future Evolution and Lessons From Aviation.

Thorogood, J.L., Florence, F., Iversen, F.P. et al. Drilling Automation: Technologies, Terminology and Parallels With Other Industries. Presented at the 2009/1/1/.

Zamora, M. and Geehan, T. Developing a Drilling Automation Technology Roadmap. Presented at the 2013/3/20/. OnePetro

External links

DiFiore, Amanda. "Human Factors in Automation." : Web Events. Society of Petroleum Engineers, 22 Sept. 2015. Web.

Popa, Andrei. 2015. "Understanding the Potential of Case-Based Reasoning in the Oil Industry." Web Events. Society of Petroleum Engineers,

Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section

Drilling Systems Automation Roadmap Workshop - Galveston - Sept 2014

OPC Unified Architecture (UA)


See also