Monitoring Hard to Reach N.C. Conservation Easements Just Got Easier

NGAT Center quad-copter

Clean Water Management Trust Fund Teams with NCSU NGAT Center’s Drone 

The array of conservation easements managed by the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund covers areas throughout the state, many located in hard-to-reach areas on rough terrain. Each one must be monitored annually by inspectors to ensure the terms of the easements are being met.

Conservation easements are land areas that are under a legal agreement to be maintained in their natural and open condition and restricted from any development that would impair or interfere with the property’s specified conservation values.

Until now, inspectors have monitored each site on foot, sometimes with difficulty if lands to be monitored are difficult to get to. An agreement with the NextGen Air Transportation (NGAT) Center at the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) at North Carolina State University is about to change that.

In a pilot flight this month, NGAT will use an unmanned quad-copter to fly over a mountainous property just outside Boone, N.C. to monitor a CWMTF conservation easement at Luther Rock. If the pilot project is successful, CWMTF will be able to monitor more sites remotely, saving staff time and program funds.

“The Clean Water Management Trust Fund was the first state agency to sign up with NGAT,” says Stewardship Director Will Summer. “We immediately saw the benefits of using the program to monitor some of our more remote sites, and we always appreciate the opportunity to work with the university system.” 

The Clean Water Management Trust Fund is located within the Division of Land and Water Stewardship in the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.