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NASA helps hatch robots for drilling oil

Eric Gay/AP

Robotic Drilling Systems AS, a Norwegian company developing a drilling rig that can think for itself as it explores for crude oil and natural gas, signed an information-sharing agreement with NASA to apply technology concepts used to build the Mars rover Curiosity, Bloomberg reports.

Robotic Drilling Systems hopes to learn from NASA’s Mars rover, which collects data and takes action based on programmed reasoning, and make its own drill rigs smarter. The company is designing a series of robots to take over the repeatable tasks now done on rigs by pipehandlers, deckhands and roughnecks, the article said.

The company’s work reflects a larger push within the energy industry to automate processes, especially after the 2010 BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico highlighted the hazards and liabilities of putting people to work on offshore oil rigs. Eleven men were killed when the Deepwater Horizon rig caught fire and sank.

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