Our Approach

Our philosophy is to help new players join in the development and deployment of drilling automation to speed uptake and to create more value for our industry.

Our Story

When I moved to Austin to manage a team building a SCADA-like control system for offshore rigs, I realized that the true value of automation would come from automating certain aspects of the driller's everyday rig floor activities. The goal is not to replace the driller but to tap him or her on the shoulder to help prevent potential mishaps.  Automate the mundane, strive for repeatability, and continually improve safety and efficiency.

Later, two  colleagues told me they had a patent for a simple controller that could automate controls via a standard SCR system.  As product manager for this system I learned about how and how not to automate rigs. We started out controlling only the mud pumps so that we minimized risk.  A drawworks or top drive accident would have ended the project in its infancy.  Once we had over 7 rig-years of experience, we expanded to other rig equipment.  Eventually, we even used this system for transatlantic drilling; the rig was in Texas and the remote driller was in the UK.

One day, I talked my way into the organizing meeting of what would become SPE's Drilling System Automation Technical Section (DSATS), where I later served as the chairman for a couple of years and in other leadership positions.  I came up with a concept for an international student competition that grew into Drillbotics® thanks to the help of many, many individuals along the way.  I am currently Director Emeritus of DSATS.  (I thought you had to be dead to hold this title, but so far, so good.)

Somehow, I was lucky enough to work for NOV's Chief Technology Officer as Director of Advanced Drilling Technologies, which let me serve as a scout looking for companies with technologies that could improve our business portfolio.  I also put together a number of training programs for various groups within NOV to teach drilling basics.  When I retired in 2015 I remained active in DSATS and other SPE activities.


Fred Florence


Fred Florence is a consultant with Rig Operations, LLC.  He retired in May 2015 after 17 years of service with National Oilwell Varco where he held positions in engineering and operations.  In his last role with the company, he was Director of Advanced Drilling Technologies in the corporate engineering group.  He also worked for 17 years in engineering and operations with SEDCO/Sedco Forex, now integrated into Transocean.  He was a project engineer for new subsea equipment needed for deepwater drilling including one of the first multiplex BOP control systems. He has managed land, helicopter, jack up and deepwater drillship and semi-submersible drilling units.  Throw in some additional time with slim hole drilling and other consulting roles to round out the entire career.

Mr. Florence’s more recent activities center on drilling automation, and he is a member of SPE’s Drilling System Automation Technical Section, which he chaired for two years before heading the team that created the Drillbotics® international student competition for automated drilling.

Since retiring, he has taken a number of drawing and painting classes in the hopes of becoming an artist.  All of his colored pencil drawings are filed in a folder called "Refrigerator Art" before sending them to his daughter (to get even).

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