(From Knoxville News Sentinel, Carly Harrington) Jack Dischner was in his yard three years ago when a utility meter reader in a white truck drove by his house.
While the technology for reading meters has advanced since the days of walking door to door, Dischner was convinced there had to be a better way.
The result is DataFlyte, a Knoxville startup that gives utilities the ability to read gas and water meters at residential and commercial properties from the air.
“What typically takes 40 man-days a month, we can do the same in six hours,” said Dischner, president and co-founder of DataFlyte.
The company, which debuted its aerial data collection system at the 2014 Kentucky/Tennessee Water Professionals Conference in Chattanooga last month, uses a patented process to collect and manage meter data through a proprietary set of equipment and software that it developed.
With five antennas secured to a Cessna 172 or 182 plane, a pilot will make two passes per mile, collecting a wide path of data from existing automated meter-reading technology. The software enables the pilot to see which houses’ data has or hasn’t been collected. It can capture readings from 6,000 meters in an hour while burning less fuel in a year than “drive-by” meter readings do in a month, Dischner said.
“With speed and efficiency, we can read meters in near real time,” he said. “All we need is six hours of clear weather flying time.”
Utilities are required by law to read meters at least once a month. Dischner said his company can reduce the billing cycle approximately 80 percent while increasing efficiency up to 97 percent.
While the rollout of automatic meter reading has been growing rapidly over the last several years, Dischner said his process is “an exponential leap above that.”
DataFlyte, he said, can help utilities better identify water leaks, provide comprehensive reports and specialized data formats, and a secure backup of all meter data for two years.
The business has been self-funded but recently secured its first round of investment from a Chattanooga firm. It is currently in discussions with utility districts in Tennessee and Ohio.
To read the full story in the Knoxville News Sentinel by Carly Harrington, click here.