Minntac driller Casey Sunsdahl had no problem making the adjustment, though he admitted he was at first apprehensive. “Drillers get used to drilling ‘by the seat of their pants,’” he said. “Eventually they begin to rely on feelings and sound, so they are unsure what will happen without those sensations. I was worried about it, too, at first. When the bit starts to bind, the string wants to bounce around. You can feel that in the rig. But I learned right away the cameras and gauges more than make up for those sensations.”
The mine committed two weeks for the demonstration period, allowing each driller three days to operate their diesel powered Pit Viper 351 drill rig from the remote station. Although the teleremote unit was on loan from another mine and had been customized to its specifications, the system is compatible with other rig models and was adapted for use with Minntac’s PV-351 without any problem. Sunsdahl said teleremote drilling might have even refreshed his drilling skills. “In teleremote operation, you really have to rely on your gauges more. But that’s not new. You were always supposed to be watching your gauges. When I try to compare it, I think the difference is, before I would watch my gauges to get a second opinion about what I believed was happening. In teleremote, gauges are primary, not backup.”
“Just look at the views you get from these cameras.” Sunsdahl zoomed in on the drill string until the revolving pipe nearly filled his screen. “You can’t see it this well from the rig’s cabin.” Then he panned up the drill string to the rotary head. “And you can’t see up the tower from your cab seat, either.” He panned around the rig, then out to survey the entire bench. “I can see in all directions, so I know for sure no one is on the bench. I can see any possible obstacles before propelling the rig.”
Epiroc operated under the trademark “Atlas Copco” prior to January 1, 2018.