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Written by Jay Smith
FPV pilot
I Am the AMA
As seen in the December 2018 issue of
Model Aviation.


Jay Smith: How did you get involved with model aviation?

Zoe Stumbaugh: I was stuck in bed, unable to sit upright or do much of anything because of a bunch of medical issues. I had dropped out of college, and life. A friend told me to find a new hobby, so with a trip to the hobby shop, I found a micro drone to fly, fell in love, and forever looked to the sky differently.

JS: How has model aviation impacted your life and/or career?

ZS: With FPV, I found the flow state that I was missing from riding motorcycles. It gave me a hands-on hobby that led to a conscious awakening. I was able to separate myself from my body and be free. It changed my entire outlook on the world around me. No longer was I stuck in bed—I was completely free, for as long as my battery lasted.

JS: What disciplines of modeling do you currently participate in?

ZS: I’m on the fringes of multirotors, specializing in 3D fixed-pitch drones for aerobatic flying. Apart from that I’m a founding member of X Class Drone Racing and have helped bring to market products used in giant drone racing throughout the industry, including DR1’s upcoming giant drone race that will be televised.





JS: What other hobbies do you have?

ZS: Virtual reality [VR]. Before getting into FPV, I was really big into VR, then I sold my first set of VR goggles for a pair of FPV goggles. Apart from that, I like 3D printing, modeling, and just making things.

JS: Who or what has influenced you the most?

ZS: Curtis Youngblood has inspired me more than any single pilot out there. He was flying multirotors in 3D long before I was a blip in the scene, plus he had larger 1,200 mm platforms figured out before they ever got off the ground in X Class and his were collective pitch!

From the way he innovates, to his skills as a pilot, he’s who’ve I’ve looked up to the most. Apart from that, Flite Test and RCModelReviews on YouTube have taught me more about this hobby than any other.

JS: What is it about giant drones that excite you?

ZS: The sheer excitement they bring! Watching little racing drones feels like watching a swarm of angry bees. The deeper sound of the larger machines hits you in your chest, much like a larger 3D heli—you feel it. Plus you can actually see what the craft is doing from hundreds of feet away. It’s like NASCAR compared to go-karts, and one of the keys to making drone racing a true spectator sport.




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