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The oil and gas industry is separated into upstream and downstream operations demarcated at the wellhead. The upstream activities involve planning and drilling the well and producing the oil and gas from the reservoirs. The transportation, refining and distribution of the products define the downstream efforts. The upstream oil and gas industry has historically been dominated by manual processes but is moving to automated systems that require new technology and skill sets. Research and development budgets are being realigned to provide value by adapting work from others to the demanding environment of subsurface drilling. This is an ideal time for other industries and academic institutions to join with petroleum specialists to create new sensors, drilling models and control algorithms to increase the safety and efficiency of the drilling activities.