One way assembly of aero structures has the potential to significantly reduce build times. One of the solutions which goes towards achieving this philosophy is the use of a ‘C' clamping automated drilling system. The Manufacturing Technology Centre has developed, manufactured and tested a ‘C' clamping automated drilling unit to overcome many of the limitations of current designs which prevent their use on a broader range of structures. The drilling unit addresses issues with inter-stack burrs, access, size and the weight restrictions as well as economic factors. The technical paper will present the outcomes from the design and manufacture of the drilling unit that is to be used within restricted access areas as either a hand held device or as a robotic end effector, free from any cables or hoses, allowing full and unhindered articulation of any robot motion. The device’s services: power, tool lubrication, swarf extraction and control systems have been designed to be embedded, rendering it as a standalone unit. With the miniaturisation of the electrical and mechanical elements, combined with a deep throat, high clamping force and innovative spindle design, the system can be applied in a variety of scenarios. The control system has been designed to be low cost, compact and wireless with a tablet interface for enhanced connectivity, improving on current solutions. Combined with the utilisation of brushless servomotors for real-time position, speed and torque feedback, the unit allows adaptive drilling of multi-material stacks and future development of other smart drilling principles. The project was funded by Aerospace Technology Institute and conducted by the Manufacturing Technology Centre.