Technical Topics

2017 Drillbotics Winners Announced

Texas A&M University Drillbotics team with their winning drillbot. Photo courtesy of SPE Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section.

The SPE Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section (DSATS) is giving university students a chance to test their engineering skills through the Drillbotics competition. Students establish their multidisciplinary teams to build a miniature robotic drilling rig inside a lab, and when finished, use the rig to drill a test formation provided by DSATS.

The winners of this year’s Drillbotics competition were announced:

2017 Drillbotics Winners

First Place: Texas A&M University

Second Place: Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Third Place, tie: University of Stavanger and University of Oklahoma

The annual competition pitches international university teams in designing, building, and operating an automated drilling rig capable of making vertical boreholes. The judges test the drillbots on their capacity to drill through the rock sample they provide with unpredictable formation underneath.

The competition was held in two phases. In Phase 1 held in fall 2016, the teams submitted their designs for the drillbot. Students were expected to consider the advantages and shortcomings of current drilling devices and were encouraged to come up with innovative solutions while designing their machine.

Ten design entries from five countries were received for this year’s competition:

  • University of Calgary, Canada

  • Clausthal University of Technology, Germany

  • Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, India

  • University of Stavanger, Norway

  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

  • Colorado School of Mines, USA

  • Missouri University of Science and Technology, USA

  • University of Texas at Austin, USA

  • Texas A&M University, USA

  • University of Oklahoma, USA

Of these, seven teams were selected to proceed to the construction and drilling phase during the Spring 2017 term.

  • Clausthal University of Technology

  • Colorado School of Mines

  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology

  • Texas A&M University

  • University of Oklahoma

  • University of Stavanger

  • University of Texas at Austin

DSATS judges visited the finalists’ universities for on-site testing and announced the three winners of the competition.

While drilling a vertical well efficiently through the sample is the primary technical objective of the competition, the Drillbotics contest model also aims to build the soft skills of the participating students. The design of the competition is set such that it brings together students from several disciplines to work in a team: mechanical and electrical engineers to build the rig, control engineers for real-time monitoring, and petroleum engineers for identifying drilling dysfunctions and mitigating them. The team work required for the contest prepares the students for the multidisciplinary environments seen in technology-driven industries they will become part of.

SPE Papers on Previous Years’ Winning Drillbots

SPE 185730. A Real-Time Interactive Drill-Off Test Utilizing Artificial Intelligence Algorithm for DSATS Drilling Automation University Competition by Bilgesu et al.

SPE 174920. Design, Construction, and Operation of an Automated Drilling Rig for the DSATS University Competition by Bavadiya et al.

For more information on the contest, guidelines, previous design reports, and reference documents visit


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