April 24, 2014      

With companies like Robotic Drilling Systems (RDS) of Sandnes, Norway, developing systems that completely robotize the drill floors of offshore oil rigs — rigs that can easily top $400M to build — the most critical element is most often turning out to be the software.

The hardware side of Robotic Drilling Systems’ oil rig robots we covered in a recent article: $8.3M Nets Odfjell Access to Next-Gen Robot Oil Drilling.


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The July 31st webcast and research report,”Robotics in Oil, Gas & Mining,” will offer up an industry update on high-performance robot technologies for mining, oil and gas exploration and production on land, on and under the sea, and as near-Earth robot space vehicles and landers: The new tool set for exploration, mining, drilling, and extraction.See: 2014 Webcast Schedule

Robot roughnecks are preferred on rigs for multiple reasons: safety, insurance, labor costs, efficiency, endurance, etc.

That many of the new oil rigs are headed to drill sites in harsh environments like the Arctic is more of a reason to get the human out of the loop.

Large robots working in cramped spaces and making complex moves on these massively expensive oil rigs need the kind of software that RDS thought impossible to develop.

According to company’s Roald Valen, the software side of things for RDS begins and ends with Energid’s Actin: “I never thought it would be possible to create sophisticated multi-robot hand-off procedures using a simple drag-and-drop interface, especially when dealing with the number of axes.”

Jim English, co-founder, president and CTO of Energid, says “much of the technology currently used in robots has been around for years: sensors, actuators and controllers. What is new is significant advancements in software that are allowing robots to do more than ever before.”

RDS intends to utilize Energid’s Actin to fully automate a robotic drilling rig that will position itself using satellite coordinates, erect 14-story steel reinforcements on its own and then drill wells.

“New robots are software intensive” says English, and the availability of better and better software drives down the cost of robots because software can be reused with little or no incremental cost.

Hardware has to be remade for each robot. As a key part of next-generation robotic systems, software is used for design validation. Complex robots must use sliding joints, rotating joints and other mechanisms to have the ability to reach around things and have dexterity comparable to humans if they are to meet the needs of tasks they are to undertake.

Energid’s software integrates with CAD software and is used for “reach studies” and for dynamic simulation to determine if motors are properly sized for the payloads they are designed to carry.

Simplicity of use was also an RDS objective, and it feels that Actin will do just that by simplifying the interface to the end-user, whether a rig operator (simply monitoring rig operations) or a developer (with the ability to create complex motion sequences for the robots). Complex multi-robot tasks will be built up from smaller human-understandable tasks .

Overall, RDS feels that Actin offers an excellent level of autonomy, flexibility, and safety for its multi-million dollar crews of robot roughnecks.