Cherokee Federal employee and veteran

Cherokee Federal scientists use advanced technologies for NOAA’s CAPSTONE expeditions

May 27, 2021

Three Cherokee Federal scientists and subject matter experts used maritime unmanned systems (UXS) to help collect and analyze data for NOAA’s CAPSTONE initiative, a massive exploration effort to learn more about life on the Pacific seafloor.

Derek Sowers, Elizabeth Lobecker and Michael White were part of the team responsible for sailing and coordinating all CAPSTONE (Campaign to Address Pacific Monument Science, Technology and Ocean Needs) expeditions over a three-year period. The summary of the findings, The Unknown and the Unexplored: Insights Into the Pacific Deep-Sea Following NOAA CAPSTONE Expeditions, has been published in “Frontiers,” a peer-reviewed open access journal of scientific research.

“We consider it a great privilege to serve NOAA and help advance their research efforts through incredible missions like these,” saysJohn “JC” Coffey, executive director of UXS for Cherokee Federal. “I am proud of our team and their contribution to the important work NOAA is doing.”

The CAPSTONE team mapped 597,230 km2 of the Pacific seafloor and conducted 187 remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives totaling nearly 900 hours of imaging time and documented more than 347,000 individual organisms. For all deep-sea taxonomic groups large enough to be visualized with the ROV, fewer than 20% of the species were able to be identified.

“The amount of data the team was able to collect through NOAA’s CAPSTONE project was immense,” says Derek Sowers, subject matter expert for Cherokee Nation Strategic Programs (CNSP), a Cherokee Federal company. “The effects of what we learned about sea life in the Pacific are far-reaching, giving us valuable insight into environmental and ecological issues.”

CAPSTONE has provided significant information on the features, habitats, and species in the Pacific as well as baseline data needed to address issues such as deep-sea mining, sustainable deep-sea fisheries and changes in ocean dynamics. Cherokee Federal’s scientists helped collect and analyze this critical information from unexplored parts of the ocean.

“What we were able to learn was taken to a new level using advanced systems,” says Michael White, subject matter expert for CNSP. “The technology enabled us to discover new species and learn about a variety of habitats that have never been seen before.”

To date, only 13.8% of the Pacific has been mapped using modern methods. CAPSTONE is the first step in advanced exploration that will continue to offer extensive opportunities for scientific discoveries.

“We are excited to have supported this large contribution to the exploration of the vastly unexplored Pacific,” says Elizabeth Lobecker, CNSP senior mapping expedition coordinator for NOAA Ocean Exploration and Research. “What we have learned through CAPSTONE is only the beginning and we look forward to going back to the region in future field seasons.”

Not only is Cherokee advancing scientific exploration through the implementation of unmanned systems, but our team is also evaluating methods to:

· Employ UXS in rapid response to disasters,

· Advance the capability of UXS for polar, marine and wildlife monitoring, as well as other environmental surveillance applications

· Utilize UXS to collect detailed measurements of air quality

· Collect targeted atmospheric observations to understand and forecast hazardous weather through data derived from UAS operations

Cherokee Federal also applies its UXS expertise across domains to fulfill defined ISR and homeland security missions as well as geospatial surveying. Our team of companies identify observational requirements that UXS capabilities can address by providing unique, affordable and reliable data from any required perspective.

With millions of drones in use for land, air and sea applications, immense amounts of smart data from smart sensors requires strategic analysis. To discern the right information, you need a trusted partner that knows how to cut through the data chaos and harvest actionable information using advanced data management, advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.

Partner with Cherokee Federal’s team of companies to make smarter decisions and generate actionable outcomes from your drone program. Visit for more details or to download our white papers:

· Drone Wisdom

· Applications & Impact of Land Unmanned Systems

· Applications & Impact of Maritime Unmanned Systems

UXS Video Content:

· Environmental Intelligence From Drone Data

· The Wisdom of Drones

Article Sources:

· Kennedy BRC, Cantwell K, Malik M, Kelley C, Potter J, Elliott K, Lobecker E, Gray LM, Sowers D, White MP, France SC, Auscavitch S, Mah C, Moriwake V, Bingo SRD, Putts M and Rotjan RD (2019) The Unknown and the Unexplored: Insights Into the Pacific Deep-Sea Following NOAA CAPSTONE Expeditions. Front. Mar. Sci. 6:480. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00480



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