Rachelle Haughn interviews Ryan Lindsay Lessard, The World Games 2022 pilot
As seen in the Summer 2022 issue of Park Pilot.
“When I first started drone racing four years ago, I never would have guessed that I’d be competing on a world stage with Evan Turner, Drone Racing League (DRL) and MultiGP Champion. We are eager and proud to represent the United States in the sport that we love so much!” —Ryan Lessard
Rachelle Haughn: How do you feel about representing the US at The World Games?
Ryan Lessard: I have sacrificed a lot pursuing my dreams in this hobby. Being a full-time elementary school teacher doesn’t allow for much spare time, but it’s all worth it. From the support I receive from my husband, family, friends, and sponsors, and the way my students’ eyes light up when I tell them about my next adventure with drones. These are the drivers that push me even harder.
RH: As a woman pilot, do you feel like you’re under more pressure to do well at The World Games?
RL: I’m not sure that I feel more pressure as a female pilot, but I do think there’s great responsibility in representing women in FPV on the world stage. If you go to a local race or even watch drone racing on TV, you typically won’t see women [represented]. At The World Games (twg2022.com), there will be 12 competing. We’ll show other women and young girls that drone racing isn’t just for men. They’ll see themselves represented and will hopefully want to pick up a transmitter and learn to fly.
RH: What do your students think about you competing in The World Games?
RL: My fourth graders love that I fly drones and are so excited that I’ll be competing at The World Games. Evan Turner met with them virtually and read them a story. This left a lasting impression on them. They really look up to both of us. The best part is that they watch me set goals, overcome challenges, and celebrate success from hard work. It’s great that I can model these qualities in both academics and real life.
RH: Is there anyone who will be at The World Games whom you are excited to meet?
RL: Since there are so few women in drone racing, I rarely get to fly with them. At The World Games, I’ll get to meet Luisa, from Italy, and Steph, from Taiwan, both teammates of mine in the Drone Champions League (dcl.aero) and on Mach One FPV.
I’m also eager to meet Minchan Kim, one of the fastest drone racers in the world. His racing lines are unmatched. I watch his YouTube videos regularly to get pumped before racing.
RH: How did you learn to fly drones?
RL: I learned to fly drones with my husband in the winter of 2018. For Christmas, we bought each other Tiny Whoops (tinywhoop.com), small drones that are mostly meant to be flown indoors. They’re much easier to fly when you are first learning. These are also the first drones that we learned to build. Now I have experience with many different types of drones but racing drones will always be my favorite.
I’d also recommend flying on a drone simulator. This will allow you to get a feel for the controls. You don’t have to worry about crashing because you can just hit the reset button. There are no broken parts or repairs needed because you are flying a virtual drone. Drone simulators are an inexpensive way to try flying a drone without having to buy all the gear. Some drone simulators include Velocidrone, Drone Racing League, and DCL the Game.
The first quadcopter that Ryan flew was a Tiny Whoop. Today she enjoys flying it in competitions.
RH: Did you fly any other type of model aircraft before drones?
RL: Before flying drones, I flew a small Syma 107G helicopter. My husband was into RC helicopters and got me flying. This quickly then paved the way to drones after we saw Mr. Steele and other OG pilots on YouTube.
We also have RC boats and trucks that we have added FPV systems to for fun. This allowed us to operate those vehicles under goggles. FPV everything!
RH: When did you start competing in drone racing?
RL: The Christmas 2018 Tiny Whoops had only been flown a few times in our living room when we decided to go to a local race. Ray and Robin’s Hobby Center had just started [its] second year of racing. Within five minutes of walking through the door, I was in my first MultiGP (multigp.com) race.
As soon as that winter passed, I was outside with my first 5-inch racing drone. I competed in more than 30 races that year and now race in chapters throughout New England in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
In 2021, I joined team Quad Force One in the Drone Champions League. I’m flying in the Women’s Cup on DCL the Game, a drone simulator. Hopefully, we’ll see a return to in-person events soon.
Ryan Lessard and her husband, Matthew, at the MultiGP International Open at the International Aeromodeling Center in Muncie IN.
Ryan’s racing setup.
RH: What do you like to do with drones besides race them?
RL: Drone racing is fast-paced, so I like the change of pace that cinewhoops and freestyle drones offer. When I fly these drones, my goal is to capture the scenery—its colors, textures, and lighting. The racer becomes a dynamic aerial photographer.
I also have my Part 107 FAA certification, so I’ve been able to produce some drone content for clients. My husband and I teamed up and used my FPV drones to film snowmobiles on some of Maine’s most popular trails. I also filmed professional race car drivers at Gridlife Road Atlanta. Chasing something down with your FPV drone is a huge adrenaline rush, and you feel so proud delivering something so unique to the client.
RH: What other hobbies do you have?
RL: Teaching and drones keep me very busy but having summers off allows me to enjoy a lot of time outdoors. If I’m not flying my drone, I’m rollerblading, biking, doing archery, or camping.
RH: Who do you look up to in the hobby?
RL: One pilot I look up to in this hobby is my husband, Matthew, pilot handle Crypt3ch. I wouldn’t be the pilot I am today without him. He has taught me so much about drones—building, programming, and repairing them. His love for RC runs deep. He’s a decent pilot, too, but he hasn’t been able to beat me for some time, ha ha. We’re a great team, which I think will be a benefit in The World Games.
I also look up to another DRL and MultiGP drone racing champion: Alex Vanover. I try to follow in his footsteps. He is a brilliant racer with inspiring dedication and sportsmanship. It’s impressive to see him and some of the OG racers move FPV into the mainstream with movies like Michael Bay’s Ambulance.