Print this articlePrint this article

Written by Matthew Ruddick
I want to bring modelers together
As seen in the February 2018 issue of
Model Aviation.

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Matt Ruddick and I am the new multirotor associate editor for this publication.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re asking yourself why there is a need to have a staff editor dedicated to the dreaded “drones.” I get it, and I’ll try my best to explain to you what my goals are and how I plan to make our hobby a happier, more inclusive place than it already is. Would you like to come along for the ride?

First, I’ll share a bit about myself. Three years ago, I walked through the doors of AMA for the first time and knew that I wanted nothing more than to play with every DJI product on the market. I wanted to fly every Phantom and Inspire I could get my hands on and produce some of the most beautiful video you could imagine. Surely that’s what a media producer for the AMA would be doing, right? Well, in short, no it was not.

Instead, I would be introduced to a world that I hardly knew existed. From stick-and-tissue Free Flight airplanes, to foamie ARFs, to scratch-built scale warbirds—there were no limits to what I was exposed to. I quickly found out that I loved the look of scale World War II warbirds, and that nothing was more relaxing than a soaring flight at dusk with my Radian.

Matt also enjoys flying fixed-wing aircraft, including this Radian glider.

I thought to myself, “Who needs those drones and their cameras?” In fact, one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had in my short tenure here was riding in a restored 1945 Boeing DC-3 for 10 minutes, and there wasn’t a drone in sight.

It wasn’t until roughly 18 months later that I got my hands on a custom-built FPV multirotor and my attitude shifted again. You see, when I was presented with an opportunity to ride along during a Tiny Whoop flight, and then experienced the excitement of the 2016 MultiGP National Championship, I discovered that drones were exactly the thing I’d been looking to immerse myself in all along.

I began planning my first project and started buying components as quickly as my wallet allowed. In slightly less than a year and a half, I’ve spent many hours and countless dollars building and flying more than a dozen custom aircraft. I’ve attended numerous FPV-related events, both on professional and personal time, and it has been an experience that I have found incredibly informative and rewarding.

Matt participated in the Model Aviation Quad Racing Challenge in the summer of 2017. He is pictured on the left with Preston Flint (center) and Model Aviation Editor-in-Chief Jay Smith.

In that time, I’ve been able to introduce numerous people to the world of FPV flying and drone racing, and a few of those people have even begun flying. The excitement was sincere and addictive. However, it was painfully obvious that the excitement wasn’t shared by many in the traditional modeling community.

Far be it for me to insist that we all enjoy the same things. And that’s not the point of this column or the goal of my position within this publication. On the contrary, I want us all to enjoy the segments of the hobby that we participate in, while respecting the ones we don’t. That is precisely why I feel that my new role is incredibly important.

In many cases, traditional modelers know little about the culture of drone pilots. Conversely, some in the drone world look at traditional modelers with a very stereotypical scope and fail to understand their concerns that the drones will ruin the hobby they’ve loved for so long. It’s truly my hope that we can change some of these misunderstandings.

One of the strengths that I bring with me is that I’ve been on both sides of the “new technology vs. traditional” argument. I have good friends who are on either side of it as well. And of course, I read all of the message boards, Facebook, and Twitter comments that insist that the “drone guys” will ruin the hobby forever, and that the “traditional guys” just don’t get it.

In reality, we have far more in common than we realize, which brings me to my new personal goal—I want to bring modelers together.

I can already hear the comments. “Hey Matt, isn’t that an AMA slogan?” Well, yes it is. But it’s a slogan that has meaning behind it. I see the modeling community like a family, and like most families, we sometimes fight. We fought when helicopters were introduced, and again when 2.4 GHz transmitters became the standard.

It’s unsurprising that we are in the midst of another fight in the infancy of the new technology revolution. What I want to do is show both sides that we can actually coexist within the hobby of model aviation. I want to show that there is validity in all disciplines of flight.

Here’s what I know: This is going to take work, and it will not get done overnight. There will be setbacks, but I’m still optimistic that we can get there.

I recall interviewing a couple of well-known FPV racing pilots in the summer of 2016. Following the interview, the two pilots looked up in the sky at an adjacent flying site at the International Aeromodeling Center in Muncie, Indiana, and asked, “What are those?” He was pointing to a gaggle of warbirds in formation during the Indiana Warbird Campaign (IWC), which happened to be going on at the same time.

The 2016 MultiGP Championship inspired many to try FPV for the first time.

They were in awe at how much work and attention was put into each of those aircraft and insisted that they needed to go look at them as soon as their practice session was over. Later, while I was speaking to a pilot at the IWC, he mentioned that he was really interested in seeing how “... those drone pilots can make it look so easy.” See, it can be done.

In the meantime, I plan to bring new and exciting multirotor content to you through this column, additional magazine features, and content for our digital edition. Guest authors and feature writers will occasionally make appearances, bringing their expertise to the pages of Model Aviation. My hope is that this content will be appealing to all drone pilots out there, and in turn, will expose them to other exciting segments of this hobby that we all love.

Perhaps I might even persuade traditional pilots to give drones a second look, or at least give them a new lens with which to view them—one that sees it as something that won’t ruin their hobby, but will help guide all of aeromodeling into a brighter sky and brighter future.

FPV technology offers a new experience to traditional modeling.

So, I ask you again, do you want to come along for the ride?


thanks for giving drones some good pub...Our school drone club has been in existence for over a year now. Many more things to come for my students. Applications to ODE for industry credential and full course to come in 2019. Both will give students high school credit for graduation by getting their drone license and passing a course. Drone Camps coming for the Summer. Very busy her in Cincinnati, gotta fly.

Thank you Matt, and that is some awesome news! We're always excited to hear about high school students becoming interested in the hobby and being encouraged by their teachers. Keep it up!!


Glad to hear that drones are being taken seriously by the AMA ! We are not bad people, and we do appreciate the skill needed to build and fly fixed wing or copter models ! I personally carry an FAA part 107 pilot license, so obviously, I care about safety and intelligent operating practices !.....Similar to horsemen, mountain bikers, and hikers...I think we can all get along in the sky we share together.

Thanks for your comment Bruce. I think we can too!

Something to keep in mind in your quest to broker peace - planes can be flown FPV and multirotors can be flown LOS.

They sure can! In fact, I've flown a few fixed wing FPV setups. I have just as much fun with them as I do with my quads!


I fly both and they require different skills and have different purposes. I enjoy aerial videography shooting in 4K. The only way to get a quality product is with the use of a multirotor. I believe the integration of both types of aircraft into the AMA will help the organization grow and expend the education needed to make multirotor pilots responsible members of the model community.

I agree Steve!


I just don’t see the problem between drones and planes.why do they not like drones.

Bill, I see it as the same thing with any new technology. We'll always have the "Old Guard" traditionalists who refuse to accept something new no matter how good or exciting it is. It's also a matter of preference. However, in due time, drones will be accepted/tolerated and will become the norm and we'll see more and more fixed wing pilots giving them a try. I remember when synthesizers made the scene back in the late 60's. We went through the same issues with the traditional acoustic musicians. Now they have become an instrument unto their own and it's hard to find a venue that doesn't use one...unless, of course, it's the philharmonic.

I just don’t see the problem between drones and planes.why do they not like drones.

I have enjoyed the work of traditional modelers for a long time. I spend lots of time going through the AMA magazine every month knowing my intrest is not going to be represented because I love the beauty of the planes, and the immaculate work that is preformed. But I have no intrest to do it myself. FPV though offers me a chance to fly like I do in my deams, to dip and dodge through trees like in a movie, but with safe consequences. I fight like hell to protect this hobby and have immensely enjoyed hours of conversation with modelers on the field. Good luck to you I am in your corner.

Thank you David... I hope I can help bring you some more content that meets your interests!


I found your article well written and thoughtful. I agree that both groups have much in common. With enough exposure we may find that we can enjoy or at least appreciate both hobbies.

Thank you Greg. I think we can too.


I live near the Cincinnati Airport, and have to drive a minimum of five miles just to find what might be a legal spot that I can fly my drone. I decided the only way I might be able to fly closer to home was to join a club that was just a few miles from my house. I talked to one member who seemed encouraging, so I filled out their registration, and sent the dues (which are higher than my AMA membership was) in.
The next day I got a call basically stating "We don't want you in our club". They tried to dance around the reason saying I had to fly as an apprentice to a member, and they didn't have anyone that was a trainer on drones.
I've pretty much decided to put my drones for sale on Craig's List, and fly the micros on a little course I set up in my basement, and maybe join a dedicated drone club.

We definitely have a ways to go with regard to club acceptance of drones. It will undoubtedly take some time, but don't give up yet Larry! I'm seeing a lot of daylight at the end of the tunnel.


Being one of a handfull of AMA clubs that started like we did with RC planes, Helis, DJI drones & (race quads ), cars trucks and buggies and airboats all RC, all electric in one place we have over 90 members and we’re not even a year old yet and making great use of the 37.5 acres our city leases our club it is possible if we all are willing to accept our individual RC choices and imbrace our differences !!!! The Port Saint Lucie RC Hobby Group

That is amazing Jack! It sounds like you guys have got a great thing going on... I'll definitely look more into your club!


I get at least some of the dichotomy between traditional R/C flyers and the drone folks. Most of it has to do with irresponsible drone flyers. Here in the Seattle area, one drone flyer crashed their drone into the Space Needle. Another crashed their drone into a person, injuring them, at a downtown parade. In another part of the country, a person attached a gun to their drone and fired it remotely. Others have been drone Peeping Toms. This caused city managers and others to write "scorched earth" policies with regard to all aircraft and responsible R/C flyers got caught in the maelstrom.

The ironic part is that the vast majority of the folks on this blog are the responsible drone and R/C flyers. We filed with the FAA. We joined the AMA. We learned and follow the rules. If we can all remember that, we'll be fine.

Add new comment