The drilling industry is characterized by a rapid and up front technology development to conquer larger water and drilling depths. The level of automation has been steadily increasing over several decades, growing from manually operated sledge-hammer technology to space-age computer-based integrated systems. Most of the automation systems on today’s vessels are put into operation without independent testing. This is a paradox considering that a single control system may be more complex than all the mechanical systems onboard. It is also a paradox that the automation systems often contain safety-critical failure handling functionality that may be difficult or dangerous to test onboard the real vessel, and therefore is not properly tested until it is activated during an emergency situation. These automation systems are essential for the safety, reliability, and performance of the vessels. Examples are the Dynamic Positioning (DP) systems, Power Management systems, Drilling Control Systems, BOP control systems, Managed Pressure Drilling (MPD) systems, and crane control systems. Hardware-In-the-Loop (HIL) testing is a well proven test methodology from automotive, avionics, and space industries, and is now also gaining recognition in the marine and offshore industries. The aim of this paper is to clarify what HIL testing is, how third party HIL testing can be applied to safety critical control system software on drilling ships and rigs, and why this is an important contribution to technical safety, reliability and profitability of offshore operations.

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