In Zoe Stumbaugh’s world, it’s drones pretty much 24/7. Even when she’s not racing (she is the U.S.’s top female drone racer, after all), she’s designing new propellers, working on her own racing drone, or flying for fun near her home in Santa Cruz, California.
After being bedridden in her early 20s, Zoe found a hobby — racing drones. Since then, it ballooned into her winning the first ever sanctioned FPV (First Person View) race in the U.S., and she is now working on 3D Freestyle flying. Plus, she developed the world’s smallest competition-level FPV Racing Drone, the Zat 109.
I had the joy of flying with Zoe in San Jose, where she taught me what goes into FPV racing, building drones and what’s new in drone racing.
Drone Girl: How did you get into FPV?
Zoe Stumbaugh: I was really, really sick. I had to go through a lot of different surgeries. I was bound to my bed for a good 2 years. I was depressed. My friend told me, ‘You need a new hobby.’ I went to the hobby shop. I found a micro drone. Then I got a larger one. I saw videos of people flying FPV on YouTube, and thought, ‘I need to do that.’
It took me 2-3 months from hearing about it to flying FPV, because I had to build it myself. I never soldered anything in my life. I had to teach myself to do that.
Then I started winning races.
DG: How would you describe FPV to someone who has never done it before?
ZS: FPV is like having an out of body experience that you get to control. I liken it to being a monk where you can have an elevated experience and get to leave your body. Continue reading Meet Zoe, the world’s top female drone pilot