Pilot Spotlight: Interview with Ryan Lessard AKA Mako Reactra
Location: Buxton, Maine
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Ryan, but I'm known as Mako Reactra in the FPV community. I fly drones FPV, first person view, from behind goggles. The goggles allow me to see what the drone sees as if I'm sitting in its cockpit. Once your goggles are on, you forget about everything around you and experience the beauty of nature with what feels like all of your senses. For this reason, I not only race but also fly freestyle.
Freestyle flight, to me, is performance art, which is funny because I’ve never considered myself an artist. The angles and flow that can be achieved in flight are like a dance with nature. A glassy, calm lake, golden hour’s sunlight peeking through a tree canopy, and the snaking waterways of a marsh. This performance edit is a dance recital of some of my favorite moments in which sometimes nature took the lead.
What inspired you to begin flying drones, and what made you want to enter the industry as a drone pilot?
I started flying drones to better appreciate the beauty around me. With FPV, I can experience places as if I'm there, but from behind the goggles. It's incredible to feel like you have no boundaries. You can travel to such extreme places with your feet planted.
I entered the male-dominated sport of drone racing because the adrenaline that comes from sending these machines through obstacle courses is enthralling! One of my favorite parts of drone racing is the competition — but the competition I set for myself. The feeling of setting a goal and achieving it is so satisfying, to see that your training and efforts have produced results. Role-modeling this for my elementary students is important to me.
What were you doing before you started flying drones, and what made you make the transition?
I have been an elementary school teacher for over 13 years. I teach and fly drones. I try to bridge these passions whenever I can. My husband and I present annually at my school's Makers and Mathletes Event. We show the public, especially the youth, our incredible hobby. We organize demo races, teach students how their learning in school connects to drones, and help kids try flying a Tiny Whoop for themselves.
What drones are you currently flying, and what drone accessories do you love?
I design, build, and repair my racing and freestyle FPV drones.
My outdoor racing setup:
Diatone GTM5 Racing Frame
Flightone Skitzo RevoltOSD running FalcoX
Hobbywing XRotor 60A 4in1 ESC
Hobbywing 2207 2450kv XRotor Pro Race Motors
Runcam Racer 2 FPV Camera
Azurepower JohnnyFPV Propellers
Ovonic 4s and 5s Batteries
Team Blacksheep Crossfire Receiver
Team Blacksheep Unify Pro32 Nano VTX
I use the Fatshark HDO goggles wrapped in a NXGraphics skin.
My transmitter is a wrapped Spektrum Dx9. I have a full-sized Crossfire module on my transmitter that extends my flying range.
What is your favorite feature on your drone and why?
Attached to my goggles is the ImmersionRC Power Play, which not only powers my goggles, but records DVR of my flights. The video quality is improved over goggle DVR, but, more importantly, it has a screen attached. While I fly, people around me are able to experience FPV by watching this screen.
Have you learned any valuable lessons from being in the drone industry that you can share with our female drone community?
I learned the value in making mistakes because this hobby or sport can be unforgiving at times. You're going to put your props on wrong, you'll probably plug it at the wrong time, and even roast a part while building. Look at the mistakes as an opportunity to learn and practice more. A well-known motto in the FPV community is "Build, fly, crash, repeat." This is true for even the best of pilots.
Whether it’s from a creative, commercial or humanitarian perspective, tell us about your most memorable drone flight you have piloted thus far.
One of my most memorable drone experiences was when I traveled to Gridlife Road, Atlanta, to get drone footage while chasing professional race car drivers, who were going over 100 miles per hour. Sending my drone at such high speeds in close proximity to those cars was exhilarating. The smoke from drifts and the sounds of the race cars and drones together were incredible.
What would you say to women and girls about the drone industry to spark their interest in getting involved?
To spark their interest in drone racing … I'd say, it's fun to beat the boys.
What excites you most about more women joining the drone industry?
I’m excited to bring my experiences in FPV to the Women Who Drone community. The community has lots of talented aerial photography pilots. Many of them are interested in learning more about FPV, so I hope I can be a resource.
Do you have any drone tips & tricks you can share with our audience?
My advice for those starting would be to begin by flying micro drones. The smaller, indoor drones that I race called Whoops (or Tiny Whoops) are great for beginners. They're both durable and safe because the props are ducted. Just don't get one stuck in your hair, haha.
Another way to practice is by using a simulator on the computer. There are some great options out there, like Drone Racing League Simulator (DRL) and Velocidrone. The best part is that when you fly SIM, you don't have to worry about damaging your drone! Keep in mind that SIM feels differently than flying a real drone, but it can be a fun way to get used to the controls. I actually fly better in real life.
Last, but certainly not least, find your local flying group. Look for Facebook groups or MultiGP race chapters. The FPV community can be incredibly supportive of one another. There's always a pilot offering up their quad to fly or their extra goggle battery. They help those needing to repair their drone or to prepare for the next race round. My local flying group is a community, a family of fliers. I love their wild ideas and ambitions. Watching them come to fruition is always inspiring.
What's the best way for our readers to get in touch with you?
Instagram: Mako Reactra
Youtube: Mako Reactra
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you?
My father passed his wings on to me. He shared my love of flight maintaining the SR71 Blackbird in the US Air Force. I didn’t pick up a drone until after he passed, but it somehow makes me feel closer to him every time I fly.
Ryan Lessard has been in over 80 MultiGP club races. She competed in the 2019 FAI US Team Qualifier and came in 2nd place in the female category. She continued to train that summer and flew the MultiGP Global Qualifier course set up by my local race chapter. Over 1,100 pilots worldwide flew the course and were ranked globally. Lessard’s ranking got her invited to compete in the 2019 MultiGP Nationals Sportsman Class in Daytona Beach, Florida. She was one of three women who attended this full weekend of racing.
Lessard has been a panelist at the NYC Drone Film Festival and a judge for the “Ripping Ovaries” FPV Female Freestyle Drone Competition. She also appeared on the Let’s Drone Out podcast — episode #175, “Drone Girls Night 2,” and episode #185, “Making Reactors with Mako Reactra.”
Lessard is sponsored by FPV gear companies Hobbywing, Azure Power, Flightone, Runcam, Diatoneand Ovonic. She is also an ambassador for Women Who Drone and AirvuzFPV.