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Send In The Rebar Tying Drones: SkyTy Concept Will Have Initial Flight Next Year

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The backbreaking work of rebar tying is attracting a variety of technology solutions, including the SkyTy P3 rebar-tying drone robot.

As with Tybot, which we covered a few weeks ago, the SkyTy concept (then known by its parent company’s name SkyMul) first gained U.S. contractor notice at the 2020 World of Concrete.

The SkyTy – which is still in prototype stage – uses drones to both map and then tie rebar intersections. It employs a ground station, a nimble SkyTy mapper drone and several “worker” tying drones – how many depends on the size of the project and desired production rates.

The mapper drone is designed to be agile while the beefier tying drone carries the payload of the tying tool and wire spool.

“They are really two platforms that are optimized for two different things.” says Eohan George, SkyMul CEO. “The mapper drone has a lot of optics that are not needed on the tying drone, which is optimized for hopping from between positions. The mapper drone can also fly for a lot longer.”

SkyTy gains cost and productivity scale on larger concrete projects, George says. “It would make sense to bring in our system on a 20,000-square-foot bridge deck job,” he says. For a slab-on-grade projects, which require fewer ties, SkyTy could be used on 30,000-square-foot-and-above projects. “We can probably reduce costs by almost half in many cases and in some instances, a lot more than that,” he says.

Compared with manual tying, SkyMul says using the SkyTy system can lead to an 84% reduction in labor, 2.4-times faster production rates and cost 32% less.

In talking with contractors, George says his team has discovered that not all contractors have analyzed their work procedures enough to understand how much time is spent on a specific process such as tying. “In this early stage, we really like to work with contractors who understand that in depth so they know exactly how to bring in our system into their workflow.”

George emphasizes that SkyTy is not designed to take away jobs. In fact, he says the ironworkers union recognizes it could help maintain production schedules, deal with worker shortages and reduce worker exposure to hazardous situations.

SkyTy in actionSky Ty Infographic Nsf Wide 768x535

Here’s how the concept works: A crew member – or ironworker rodbuster on union jobs – first marks the parameter of the rebar area that needs to be tied. This process takes about an hour, George says. The mapper drone automatically flies over the area, building a map of the rebar, identifying grid spacing and blank intersections.

The crew member then uses a semi-automated interface to verify grid spacing and placement accuracy of the placed rebar, SkyMul says, allowing verification of “hundreds of square feet of rebar in a matter of a few minutes.”

Using the coordinates provided by the mapping drone, multiple tying drones can be deployed to do the actual tying, working in coordination and keeping out of each other’s way.

The SkyTy tying drone uses a gantry system to position the tying end directly over rebar intersections. Using the gantry system, the hopping time between positions is significantly reduced, which in turn reduces the overall time the drones are tying. “You can tie close to four intersections before the drone has to reposition itself,” George says.

Since the tying drones are controlled by what the mapping drone has mapped out, the crew member doesn’t actually fly the drone but rather handles logistics, such as swapping out batteries or changing the wire.

George says neither the mapping nor the tying drones are off-the-shelf. Both the physical drone and the software driving them are proprietary to SkyMul.

Although they are capable of working in sync, the number of tying drones required on even a large job is fairly small, George says.

These multiple drones will not be working side by side, but rather working around each other to accomplish the defined ties. “Even if they are working the same area, they are doing it at two opposite sides to reduce the chances that they’re close to each other,” George says. The drones typically stay 2 to 3 feet from each other.

Right now, each tying drone needs to have its battery swapped out every 25 minutes, tying about 70 to 80 ties on each charge and tying one rebar intersection about every 20 seconds. SkyMul is also working on a more robust battery solution for the drones.

What’s next

SkyTy will come out in phases as SkyMul works on demonstration projects with contractors.

“Our focus is to operate up to five teams for up to two years to really hone the system,” George says. “We want to be really conservative in the time it takes to get to market and we want to spend as much time working as a service to contractors.”

SkyMul has participated in the National Science Foundation’s Innovation-Corps program, which is designed to help researchers “reduce the time to translate an idea to the marketplace,” according NSI, which has also given the company a $200,000 grant.

Because of this, George says he sees the company taking on pilot services in the third quarter of 2022. “In Q4 of this year we hope to be able to do a pilot release in an actual construction environment,” he says.

SkyMul is now working with a large West Coast-based contractor that has a crew of around 150 rodbusters to explore a demonstration project. George says he’s also gotten interest from contractors building bridge decks and large slab-on-grade projects.

SkyMul has produced this video to explain the SkyTy process:

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Video: Doosan’s Latest Wheel Loaders Are New in Every Way | The Dirt #27

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From a “transparent bucket” and a new exterior design all the way down to a more spacious cab and maintenance improvements on the inside, we brought in the experts to discuss everything new on Doosan’s latest loaders.

In this episode of The Dirt we welcome in Dooan’s Aaron Kleingartner and Bill Zak to discuss the wheel loader market, development of the new Dash-7 loader lineup, and that new see-through bucket. Check out the video above for all the details.

Mentioned in this video:

How the First See-Through Loader Bucket Works. A Feature From the Future


Equipment World serves up weekly videos on the latest in construction equipment, work trucks and pickup trucks—everything contractors need to get their work done. Subscribe and visit us at equipmentworld.com!

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Komatsu’s D39i-24 is the Smallest Dozer with Intelligent Machine Control

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With its new D39i-24, Komatsu is putting its Intelligent Machine Control system in a 105-horsepower machine. It is the smallest intelligent machine in the company’s dozer line up.

The D39i-24 is equipped with iMC 2.0, a GNSS-based system that allows users to program 3D design data directly into the machine. This data helps guide automatic dozing from rough cut to finish grade. Compared to aftermarket machine control systems, Komatsu says the iMC 2.0 “makes every pass count for superior construction.”

Komatsu D39PXi-24Compared to the previous generation D39, operators on the D39i-24 machines can see productivity improve by up to 60%, Komatsu says.KomatsuOperators can quickly turn the iMC 2.0 features on or off using a side switch on the right joystick. Two antennas on the cab roof support multiple GNSS. Once the satellite capture rate is improved, the machine can be used in any time zone, Komatsu says.

New intelligent features on the machine include: 

Proactive dozing control — The dozer measures the terrain it tracks over and uses that data to plan the next pass. This maximizes the blade load throughout the pass regardless of the terrain ahead. Compared to the previous generation D39, operators can see productivity improve by up to 60%, according to Komatsu.

Fatigue reduction in rough dozing — The tilt steering control automatically tilts the blade under a heavy load to maintain straight travel during rough dozing. Komatsu says this feature can reduce operator steering input by 80%.

Repeated, consistent lifts — Controlled by a button press, lift layer control puts in repeated consistent lifts using the mapped terrain as its reference point. This precise layering eliminates excess fill by automatically controlling the blade to follow the finished surface once lifts have reached finish grade. 

Quick surface creation — This feature allows operators to create a temporary design with a button press. Combined with other iMC 2.0 features, crews can begin stripping or spreading using automated input while waiting for the finish grade model.

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Asphalt Contractor to Pay $1.75M After False Claims Allegations

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A Minnesota asphalt paving contractor has reached a $1.75 million settlement after being accused of using unauthorized gravel materials on three road construction projects and making false claims about them, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota.

The Attorney’s Office alleges that Mark Sand & Gravel of Fergus Falls used substandard materials on paving projects on Highways 34, 59/10 and 78 in the Detroit Lakes area. The company used waste or shale rock in the gravel mixes on the federally funded projects between 2013 and 2015, the office says. The office also alleges the company made “materially false claims and statements in connection with its use of those materials.”

“Performing road construction projects funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation comes with a set of detailed terms and specifications,” says Andrea M. Kropf, special agent-In-charge for the Midwestern Region of the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.

“When companies fail to follow contract specifications, use unauthorized materials and make false statements concerning the quality of materials, the integrity of the work being performed is compromised.”

The contractor was cited under the U.S. and Minnesota false claims acts.

“Failing to uphold contractual obligations by agreeing to do one thing but then doing another is not acceptable,” said Acting U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk. “We will continue to use the False Claims Act and other tools at our disposal to ensure that contractors act with transparency and do the work they promised to do.”

The projects were administered by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which also was a co-investigator in the case with the USDOT’s Office of Inspector General. The U.S. and Minnesota DOTs will split the settlement according to the projects’ original funding formulas, the Attorney’s Office says. “The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.”

A request for comment from Mark Sand & Gravel was not immediately returned.

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