Tag Archives: Robert Rennie

Major Drilling ready to deploy MEDATech robotic rod handling solution at exploration sites

Specialised drilling contractor, Major Drilling, has joined forces with MEDATech’s Borterra division to start deploying a robotic rod-handling solution for use in its exploration drilling projects.

RodBot™ is a hydraulic robotic handler that eliminates manual rod and casing handling, according to MEDATech. Suitable for mining, construction and the oil & gas industry, it can be adapted to work on virtually any piece of drilling equipment.

RodBot has three control modes:

  • Manual control whereby the operator has manual control of each moving element of the arm through a radio remote;
  • Tip control computer assistance to allow the operator to control the arm moving the drill pipe in a linear motion. Single-axis input on the joystick translates to the pipe, moving in a straight line either vertically or horizontally out from the arm base; and
  • Semi-autonomous control where the RodBot moves along a path determined by the operator and/or is automatically adapted to the current mast position. The operator has hands-on control and can start/stop at any time if safety is ever in question.

“Rod handling is the part of drilling historically most prone to accidents,” observes Marc Landry, VP Technology & Logistics at Major Drilling. “Major Drilling is committed to reducing risk for our employees and so we are pleased to have found a solution that really works—the MEDATech Borterra RodBot.”

According to MEDATech President & CEO, Robert Rennie, the magic of RodBot is really in the software. “Thanks to electric-hydraulic operation it’s very robust and precise, it’s easier to use than most video games,” he says. “The learning curve is quick in every mode – manual, tip control and auto.”

The collaboration between MEDATech and Major Drilling began in 2021, with MEDATech’s newly-developed RodBot. The two companies worked together to refine the machine through trial and experimentation. The robotic rod-handling solution now saves time in addition to being 100% hands-free, according to the companies.

Major Drilling provided significant guidance on the development of the RodBot’s grapple, while MEDATech refined everything from the machine’s fine motor control to its software. This led to Major Drilling recently entering into an agreement with MEDATech for exclusive rights to RodBot for use in exploration diamond drilling, everywhere Major Drilling operates.

RodBot has what robotics engineers call “go” and “no-go” areas: zones within the arm’s reach in which it’s safe to operate and zones where it’s not, MEDATech explains. That includes defining zones where there is equipment in the way and must be avoided.

“With RodBot, an operator can program a starting point, an ending point, and the robot will calculate the most efficient path, including navigating around any defined obstacles, using collision-avoidance software built into the robotic operating software,” the company says.

RodBot can be mounted on a drill rig, pipe tub, tracks, or be set beside the drill on a skid. The operator can define and modify no-go zones for both the path taken by the robotic arm and exclusionary zones for the drill setup at each new location.

“The rod movements are fast and consistent,” explains Borterra Division Manager, Taylor Davies. “The controls are easy to master and RodBot significantly reduces the potential for human error.”

RodBot can, according to MEDATech, be retrofitted onto existing cranes and drill rigs, attached to pipe tubs or mounted on a skid. Borterra can also supply a dedicated hydraulic powerpack (diesel, gas, or electric), help integrate an existing hydraulic system, or supply the information required to carry out a retrofit.