Major Drilling joins forces with MEDATech to use robotic rod handler

Safety is top of mind for Major Drilling, one of the world’s largest drilling services companies primarily serving the mining industry. “Rod […]
Major Drilling has the exclusive rights to use RodBot for diamond drilling worldwide. Image courtesy of MEDATech

Safety is top of mind for Major Drilling, one of the world’s largest drilling services companies primarily serving the mining industry.

“Rod handling is the part of drilling historically most prone to accidents,” observes Marc Landry, VP technology and logistics. “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.”

“The magic of RodBot is really in the software,” explains MEDATech president and CEO, Robert Rennie. “Thanks to electric-hydraulic operation it’s very robust and precise, it’s easier to use than most video games. 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.

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. The driller recently entered into an agreement with MEDATech for exclusive rights to RodBot for use in exploration diamond drilling, everywhere Major Drilling operates.

RodBot is suitable for mining, construction and the oil & gas industry, as it can be adapted to work on virtually any piece of drilling equipment. It has three control modes:

  • Manual control The operator has manual control of each moving element of the arm through a radio remote
  • Tip control Computer assistance allows 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
  • Semi-autonomous control. The RodBot moves along a path determined by the operator and/or 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.

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. That includes defining zones where there is equipment nearby that 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 rod movements are fast and consistent.

RodBot can be retrofitted onto existing cranes and drill rigs, attached to pipe tubs or mounted on a skid. MEDATech’s Borterra division 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.

Find details at www.MEDATech.caor click here to watch RodBot in action.

Contact Major Drilling at


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