Atlanta, GA
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SkyMul, a Comcast incubated company founded by Georgia Tech Robotics Institute alumni and supported by a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from various federal government agencies, is getting a lot of attention in the construction industry with their new invention called SkyTy, a swarm of drones that perform the back-breaking physical work of rebar tying for concrete flatwork and other slabs at construction sites.

The process of making structures from concrete is to first place rebar, tie it, pour the concrete, and wait for it to set. The rebar has to be tied so that it doesn’t move around when the concrete is poured or when laborers walk on top of it during the process of installation.

Moving the rebar during any of the above processes makes the building less strong than it was designed to be.

There are currently over 600,000 bridges in the USA and a large number are aging and will require replacement in the next few years. SkyMul founders believe that their SkyTy solution can help speed up the construction of the more than 22,000 bridges that will need to be replaced in the next 10 years.

Rodbusters who do this work, usually with metal wire and a plier-like tool or, in some cases, a rebar tying gun, currently have the highest rate of soft tissue damage (10x more than other industrial trades) and take significantly more time to recover for each injury. It is estimated that rodbusters will spend more than 2000 man-years over the next few years solely tying rebar to fix the 22,000 bridges that need to be fixed in the US. SkyMul believes it has a robotic solution to solve that problem.

SkyTy consists of a control station and a swarm of drones. The swarm size can be varied with the size of the jobs and the schedule for completion. The technician manning the system identifies the rebar installation area that needs tying. A divided section of the work area is assigned to each drone. After the technician selects the percentage of ties (50%,75%,100%) and the pattern for tying, multiple drones from the SkyTy swarm are deployed.

The drones fly over the rebar and identify rebar intersections without using CAD files or programming utilizing computer vision technology. They identify the untied intersection, land, tie it with metal wire, and takeoff towards the next intersection. Each drone, which operates independently of the others and is easily replaceable, then comes back to the landing station for spool and battery replacement.

After the completion of tying, SkyTy’s control station provides a report of the successful ties for quality control and archival. The SkyTy system enables a trained technician to perform the tying job done by multiple rodbusters, freeing up the rodbusters to do other critical tasks for rebar installation.

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