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NOAA UAS Program Hosts National Tribal Interest Group for UAS Webinar

The NOAA UAS Program and DOI’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) co-hosted the quarterly meeting of the Tribal Interest Group for UAS on November 14th.

The NOAA UAS Program and DOI’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) co-hosted the quarterly meeting of the Tribal Interest Group for UAS on November 14th. Several tribal and non-tribal representatives were present and discussed current Native American UAS operations, future concepts of operations and STEM opportunities. John “JC” Coffey led the webinar from NOAA’s Headquarters.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is responsible for the administration and management of 55 million surface acres and 57 million acres of subsurface minerals estates held in trust by the United States for American Indian, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives. Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) provides education services to approximately 42,000 Indian students.

The Tribal Interest Group for UAS discussed:

Current Tribal UAS operations and support functions for those present
Opportunities to share best practices and lessons learned in this domain
Areas of interest from the Tribal communities and possible common missions
STEM opportunities and paths forward

The Meeting Agenda

  • Welcome & Introductions – JC Coffey, Cherokee Nation
  • Briefing on the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Branch of Geospatial, Wyeth Chad Wallace, Branch Chief Of Geospatial Support (BOGS)
  • Presidential UAS Memo – JC Coffey, Cherokee Nation
  • Wrap-Up an Closing Remarks – JC Coffey, Cherokee Nation


Mr. Wyeth Chad Wallace represents the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) as the Branch Chief of the Branch of Geospatial Support (BOGS) Office of Trust Services Division of Land Titles and Records at Lakewood, Colorado. Mr. Wallace promotes the synergistic application of geographic information system (GIS) to Indian Country and the many uses therein. He is a Forester by trade and education who has spent his career working for the BIA since 1998. He incorporated GIS into timber harvesting activities and utilized it for tracking, planning and analytics. He spent time at the central office forestry Branch where he worked in inventory and planning and again incorporated GIS in to his workflow. He took that GIS knowledge and familiarity with him to become the Branch Chief for BOGS and has expanded the program into many different areas to assist programs through GIS.

John “JC” Coffey is currently the Executive Director, Unmanned Systems for the Cherokee Nation Technologies Portfolio where he established and leads their unmanned program supporting several inter-agency and industry organizations in advancing unmanned systems in worldwide operations including Polar ice-breaker support. He provides several governmental teams guidance for strategic and program planning, system test & evaluations, system engineering, program transition to operation. He is a guest lecturer, and has published several reports and articles on unmanned systems. He is a member of ASTM’s F-38, RTCA’s SC-228, Drone World Expo’s Advisory Board, AUVSI’s Board of Directors, Advocacy Committee and was awarded 2015 AUVSI Member of the Year. He is also the cofounder of the Federal UAS Tribal Interest Group.

The Cherokee Nation is currently supports NOAA in several areas including the Unmanned Systems Program, and has recently been awarded a contract to continue those efforts.

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