Maine teacher to fly drones at 2022 World Games
Ryan Grieves, aka Ryan Lessard, will represent the United States at the 2022 World Games. This is the first time drone racing has been included in the World Games.
BUXTON, Maine — In the world of competitive sports, it’s rare to see athletes sitting still, moving only their fingers. But quick fingers and sharp mental focus are exactly how competitors excel in one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
Ryan Grieves is a fourth grade teacher at Dyer Elementary School in South Portland. To break up the days, she sometimes flies a mini-drone that fits in her palm around the classroom.
She explains to her students how drones are built, programmed and piloted. It comes quite naturally because it’s Ryan’s passion. His students think his drones are “cool,” but few, if any, realize their teacher is a world-class drone pilot.
After school most days, you can find Ryan in the comfort of a lawn chair or on his couch with glasses on his face and his remote in hand. She is training for the next World Games where she will compete against drone pilots from all over the world. His drone can reach speeds of over 90 miles per hour as it navigates an obstacle course set up in his backyard.
“Ryan Lessard is one of the best pilots in the country and possibly the world,” said David Roberts of Drone Sports Inc. Roberts led efforts to bring the sport of drone racing to the 2022 World Games in Birmingham , Alabama, where for the first time the competitive sport will be presented. Thirty-two drivers from 24 different countries will compete and Ryan Lessard, along with Evan Turner, will represent the United States.
It’s not just a chance for Ryan to show off the skills she’s been working on for several years. It will also shine a light on the sport itself. The World Games feature sports like parkour, paragliding and sumo wrestling. Thirty-four of the sports in the World Games, which are held every four years, are not contested at the Olympics and each is reviewed by the International Olympic Committee for consideration at the next Olympics.
Although drone racing is unlikely to feature in the Olympics anytime soon, Ryan is excited and nervous about competing. In this male-dominated sport, Ryan has established herself as an emerging woman who can compete with many of her male counterparts, including her also racing husband.
“She’s been faster than me for a while. I get close but sometimes when I get ahead of her in the middle of the race she makes sure to get ahead of me and beat me,” said Matthew Grieves.
Ryan and her husband run races in New England and want to see the hobby and the sport grow, especially among women.
“I loved seeing more women fly. There are so few of us. I want to show them, young girls and women, that it’s not just a sport for boys and men,” Ryan said.
Ryan used to play video games and thinks that may have helped her become a good drone pilot. She said flying is an adrenaline rush she just can’t get enough of. When his flights are grounded, often due to dead batteries or an accident, Ryan works to build and repair the drone. The type of drones that Ryan flies cannot be purchased from any store. She builds them, repairs them and even programs them, which takes a lot of time and money. Luckily for Ryan, drone sponsors are sending him free gear.
“We have a motto in drone racing: Build, Fly, Plant, Repeat,” Ryan said.
Most people don’t know his pilot name, Mako Reactra, but it’s a name that’s now well known in the world of competitive drone racing.
For Ryan, the sport has opened doors she never dreamed of and she wants to share it with others.