As I’ve spent pretty much all of my short lived career involved in one way or another drilling boreholes for a wide variety of purposes I wanted to highlight a machine that I think has revolutionized the outlook of the drilling industry in the UK. To qualify that statement I would like to say that it is worth remembering that the vast majority of UK contractors drilling fleets are either quite aged pieces of equipment or, where there has been investment in new plant, the equipment is ‘new’ merely in its production. By that I mean that the approach to drilling/boring/augering, in essence advancing, boreholes has not changed significantly in generations. An old driller once told me that it had been proven that the ideas behind cable percussive drilling dated back to Egyptian times, he did stress that he hadn’t seen it himself though i wasnt so sure!
In essence rig manufacturers were sticking to the valued adage ‘if it aint broke, dont fix it’. And quite rightly. All too often ‘new’, ‘exciting’ technology comes at the expense of common sense and practicality.
Once again, I’ve digressed.
The inspiration behind this post comes from this:
This is one of the Geotrak series of slope drilling rigs available from Slope Drilling Ltd. I first came across this concept a few years ago when scoping a highways investigation part of which was on a steep sided road embankment. I got in touch with Stuart Tod who at the time was with Geotechnical Engineering (http://www.geoeng.co.uk/Index.html) a UK site investigation contractor. Stuart had personally conceived, designed, trialed and championed the concept of a window sampling rig capable of not only drilling on slopes but creating safe working platforms for its staff.
I was impressed with what Stuart had to say and convinced my boss immediately that this was the best solution to the problem and we awarded the slope work to Geotechnical Engineering. At that time it seems very few people in the industry were aware of this little gem and I spent many a day on site and in meetings eulogizing about the merits of this wonderful bit of kit. The last I had heard before I departed for sunnier climes in 2008 was that the rig had been formally accepted by several major players which had opened up the rail and highways networks where I was sure it would excel.
And it seems it did just that with further advances coming in the form of larger rigs capable of rotary drilling, larger working platforms and larger ambitions not to mention formal recognition by way of a prestigious ‘Ground Engineering’ Awardwith the Judges saying:
‘We liked this enormously because investigating slopes is at the heart of difficult ground engineering. Getting rigs on slopes can be complicated and expensive. This machinery has lots of well developed ideas and addresses many health and safety issues”.
It looks as though Stuart Tod has now gone out on his own to bring the rig to the wider world with Slope Drilling Ltd (http://www.slopedrilling.com/page1.aspx) and I’m pleased to champion for both Stuart’s new venture and the work Geotechnical Engineering have already done and continue to do with the rigs in the UK.
It can’t have been easy trying to bring innovation to an industry who had been sat on their laurels for so long, maybe now we can see further technological advances bring greater efficiency and cost benefits to clients around the world, thus securing the jobs of contractors, engineers, designers and the like.