“Like a bird” – Talk with Lexie “MaiOnHigh” Janson about FPV, Youtube & Feminism

by Ulf Schleth

Lexie Janson (Photo: Lexie Janson)

Lexie Janson (Photo: Lexie Janson)

This talk with Lexie Janson was one I made in first place for the german newspaper “wochentaz”. Newspapers have limited space for articles, so the published version was translated, heavily shortened and edited. But the talk was also for people who are further interested in FPV and the other topics covered, so here is the raw, just slightly corrected and shortened version of the audio and the transcript. They also differ a little bit. With all my bad english and embarrassing repetitions, “yeah”s and “okay”s, but also with quite a lot additional information and all the great things Lexie said, including that ones which didn’t make it into the article. One of the main motivations for this text was to do something about the gender gap in technological empowerment.

Despite Lexies own channel here are some youtube channels of female FPV pilots, Lexie sent me. Check them out:


The audio of the talk, if you prefer listening to reading it.


Joshua Bardwell sent this Youtube-link as a comment on the part about FPV-Youtubeing & commerce.

The transcript, made with help of whisper.cpp

Part 1 – From drones to FPV

Ulf Schleth: Lexie Janson. Do you remember when you first came into contact with drones and what it was like to pilot one for the first time?

Lexie Janson: Yes. So that was in 2014, as early as that. And drones have been just coming into the normal light of day, I would say. And I was doing a marketing job for a theater in Poland. And the owner of the theater said that he actually wants to have a shot from the sky. And he heard about those things, drones. Can you do it, Lexie? And I said, of course, even though we couldn’t. So we came back to the office and I said, guys, we’re gonna get the drone now because I said we can do it. And obviously, this is how it works in media. So we bought a drone. And if you can imagine a drone right now, you have those nice screens, you see everything that you are doing, the amount of settings is amazing. What we had back in 2014 was a drone that was flying. You had to put a GoPro on it and you could not see what you were doing. So we had to go up, do the shot, go down, put the SD card into the computer, realize that we absolutely messed it up. So go up again. And it took us three days to take this shot. And at the end of the day, it was in the ad of this theater for, I think, five seconds. So three days of work for five seconds of shot. And the owner of the theater was absolutely happy about it. So we worked pretty well. And I said to the guys that flying part, really cool.

So that’s the point we will come to later with building.

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

But the first drone, was that a FPV drone?

Yes, yes.

So you never had some experience before in your childhood with normal drones?

No, not really. I mean, in 2014, I was, wait, I’m 30 now. I was 21.


That was nine years ago. Can you imagine?

Yes, I can.

But for this, you don’t need the cameras really. So I really didn’t have any type of contact with drones or anything like this. I always wanted to be a pilot, but the price tag on this is huge. So that was out of a question.

Yeah. Okay. Next question. So it’s good to make this question before we talk further about FPV. Lexie, you are a well known FPV pilot. Many people have prejudices against drones. They are used for surveillance, as a weapon for voyeurism. And there are regular reports in the news about drones flying or crashing in places where they shouldn’t be. What is FPV flying and what makes it so different from other ways of flying drones?

So the drones that you can usually buy in the store are called normally camera drones or normal drones. And they have gimbals on which cameras are, and they are usually used for videography, photography. They have GPS systems on, and you don’t really need to learn that much to fly them. While FPV drones are mostly manual. So in normal drones, if you let go off all of the sticks and controls, the drone will hover. If you let go of all of the sticks on FPV drone, it’s probably going to crash into the ground or fly somewhere really far away. So that’s the main difference on them. The FPV drones also have the FPV cameras and FPV stands for first person view. And that means that when you put the goggles on, you are as a pilot inside of the aircraft. So you see everything in real time. There is no delay. Especially in analog, there is no delay. And you can do a lot more than you could do with the normal camera drones because they operate within 360 degrees. So they can do all types of tricks. They can move really fast. And they are not stopped by any type of GPS or any type of limitations. So that’s the biggest difference there. And yes, I know that a lot of people are being told that drones are bad and everything, but drones are also being used to transport organs or packages to the places that need it most. And most of the issues that we heard of is actually coming from people who just bought themselves a drone, didn’t read the instructions, did not care enough to check all the laws and things like this. They just bought a drone and they want to do things with them. So that’s the biggest problem. Well, most of the FPV pilots actually know what they are doing because we have a lot of limitations. There are a lot of things that you need to learn to actually fly them. And there is a whole community that will stop you from doing questionable things, let’s say.

Lexie Janson on Youtube
“I drowned my FPV drone…” by Lexie Janson

Yeah, that’s a good sentence. So I would like to extend the question. What do you think about the difference between the handling with the machines from the FPV community and people who are flying normal drones? Do you think there is a connection between these [pilots]?

Well, yeah, I’m actually teaching a lot of people how to fly FPV drones. I’m teaching as a course and I’m teaching as one-on-one coaching. And I have a lot of clients who are switching from normal drones into FPV. And the differences in the flight are massive. And basically going from normal drone into FPV drone requires you to relearn how to fly entirely, because the physics of this are way different and the handling of the drones is absolutely different. The FPV pilots are much more skilled and they need to do much more to create a really nice footage and to go through all of the small gaps and everything. It’s a lot of learning about physics. It’s a lot of muscle memory as well and tricks and things that need to be done to actually fly the drone.

Yeah. Okay. Do you also think there is a kind of ethics or moral in the FPV scene?


What prevents them from doing stupid things? I know that there are sometimes stupid things happening .. but ehm … In general, I mean.

Yeah, exactly. I believe that 99% of people are amazing and 1% is ruining it for everyone. So in FPV community, there’s a lot of people who will tell a person like, “Hey, you need to know the laws. Hey, you need to do this and that.” And it’s mostly because we are aware that if we do something stupid and we get caught, there will be laws preventing us from doing nice things and we want to have our nice things. So there’s a lot of policing around and people saying, “Hey, dude, this is not cool.” Or just checking with each other and just letting us, other people know like, “Hey, this is actually illegal,” or “You shouldn’t be doing this,” or “Remember to do this, this and that.” So people are actually really taking care of making things legal. The same with racing, because there’s FPV drone racing. All of the events are legal and you have to have a good license to participate in those events as well. So all of the FPV pilots that I know that are racing have special licensing and everything like this. So we take care of those things.

Yeah. Okay. So can you give me a kind of a further explanation about what do you find most https://youtu.be/NDQaTlo5zM4fascinating about flying like this?

Oh gosh. I feel like a bird every single time. I know that there’s a lot of pilots that do really cool tricks and things that look great on the camera. I’m actually putting the goggles on and each time I’m in the air, all I can do is, “Ooh, that’s pretty. I love this view. Oh, this is amazing. I will go there.” So then I forget about everything. It’s like being in a different world and being a different person. You can be a bird and just fly whatever you want to. So it’s just, I don’t know, a feeling of freedom.

Yeah. Thank you very much. There are essentially three basic disciplines in FPV racing, freestyle andthe other topics covered cinematic. What differentiates them? Sorry, I translated that question with deeple and I read them for the first time in English. What differentiates them and what is your favorite way to fly?

So I’m known for drone racing. I started racing in 2015 and drone racing is going through a set of obstacles. We can call it a parkour with gates and flags and different shapes of things. I was even once on a race in which an obstacle was an actual plane. It was an aviation museum and I actually crashed into this plane really hard. So racing is about skill and speed. There’s around three to six people flying at the same time. And the main idea is to go through the entire course, the fastest out of all the people and without crashing into obstacles and each other. The part of each other is happening way more often than I would like to, especially that you cannot really see everything around you. You just see everything that’s in front of you. And this is a discipline of sport that’s actually pretty exciting, especially if you watch it from the inside, if the league is showing you how it looks like from the inside. From the outside, if there’s LEDs, those things are really fast. They can go 100, 200 kilometers per hour, depending on the league. And they’re really loud. It’s basically like Formula One, but flying and really tiny. So this is really interesting sport that’s full of adrenaline. There’s a lot of people just trying to figure out all this stuff for themselves. And there’s a lot of crashing. Now cinematics is something that people use for advertisements or movies. There’s a lot of movies currently on Netflix I saw that are using FPV footage because FPV drones are capable of doing things that normal camera drones are not capable of, such as going under the bridge, going between two little boxes, just getting really tight shots, going between people. There’s special drones called cine whoops, which are allowing you to go between people’s legs or really close to people in a safe way. And those are the shots that are usually seen on YouTube. Really nice, steady shots. There’s nothing going on except going through small gaps and showing really beautiful things. Now freestyle is something that most hobbyists do. And I do it often as well. It’s doing a lot of tricks, going upside down, flipping the drone, going between tiny things, going through obstacles. And it’s everything in between racing and cinematics, I would say, plus a lot of tricks.

Okay. That was a very abrupt stop. And you talked the most about racing. So can I… schlussfolgern, I don’t know the English word [the dictionary says, it’s ‘infer’]. Does that mean that that’s your favorite way to fly?

Yes, that is my favorite. But yeah, I’m also using cinematics because I’m working with some tourism boards or companies, hotels, and I’m using cine whoops to fly inside of the buildings, inside of the hotels, above the swimming pools, things like this. So this is mostly my work for the cinematics and for my YouTube channel, my personal YouTube channel. I’m not really that much into freestyle because as I told you, I’m usually getting distracted with the nice views. So mostly my videos finish and being cinematic rather than freestyling. So yeah, freestyle is really everything. And what I like about freestyle is that you can go to abandoned building and just fly there and go through all types of gaps and just put yourself into new weekly trial or can I do this gap? Can I do this flight and things like this. So those are things that I like doing with other people. Mostly if you are freestyling, you are flying with more than one person as well. So it’s more like a community experience.

What you … that’s not really part of the interview, but I just … what you told about cinematic flying belonged more to the professional. What I always wonder about is that there are so much people who are flying cinematic and buy the expensive equipment just to make videos for their mother or their friends. So do you have the same experience? So I always ask myself, why do you need this new camera? You always have three. And I don’t know.

Jaa … The cameras … Oh, gosh, I have so many cameras. I don’t want to talk about it. No, I know that cinematics, it’s a part of the hobby. Some people like creating pictures and they are not professional photographers, but they still want this camera for 10,000 euros because it’s great and I want to do it. So I think it’s working both ways. My most expensive drone I ever flown was around 50,000 euros with the camera and the gimbal. And we were using it for TV series. So it depends what you want to do with your drones. But I mean, even if you’re doing pictures and videos just for your family and your friends on YouTube, it may actually get much, much bigger. My YouTube started with just being kind of diary for me, but then it exploded into being my full time job. And this is what I mostly do. So I would say that this was an investment that kind of moved into my personal business. So maybe it’s something like this for others.

Do you think the people who do it as a hobby should relax and shouldn’t always buy the newest equipment or do you think the pressure to buy the newest stuff in FPV is important for FPV?

I think people should slow down with the “newest and greatest” because the hype dies fast and it creates a lot of stuff that people throw away before it’s used or broken. That’s really wasteful. The differences between products are not that noticeable, especially for most users to be fair.

Okay. Another question where I’m not sure if it will make it into the text. There are strict rules in almost all countries that make it very difficult, not only for long range pilots to fly legally with little effort, to completely fly legally with power of the VTX and whatever and the places and so on. If you had two sentences or three or whatever, what would you like to say to the aviation authorities?

Well, I’m actually working with aviation authorities. I’m working with EASA on getting the information about drones and FPV closer to the public. So that’s part of my job. And it’s all aviation and we need to keep things as safe as possible for the crewed aircraft. So we cannot really allow people to go five kilometers far away while they see only themselves and only what’s in front of them. Because if something’s coming from the left or right, FPV drone will not see it. And if you are far away from your drone, but you cannot hear it yourself, it may also cause a lot of problems and people to lose lives. We don’t want that, obviously. So there’s a lot of rules, yes, but you can get special permission to do a lot of things like this, even long range depends on the local authority if they will allow you to do so. But it’s just like with other types of aircraft. But yeah, I understand that drones and other types of aircraft is like huge difference. But there’s also places in which it’s possible to do things like this. And if you keep to the safety and keep your mind clear and don’t do things that are really not cool, like if you are going long range, but just up, it makes no sense because you cannot see what’s going on and you can put other people’s lives in danger. But if you are flying just above the trees of the forest, there’s obviously not going to be any type of an aircraft there, because it’s just above the trees in the forest. So if you keep your line really low, and if you stay really safe, a lot of things are possible, but you need to keep to thinking that you may be putting someone’s life in danger.

Do you think there should be different rules for educated FPV pilots in opposition to the general public drone flying people?

Yes, I think there should be a separate licensing or separate type of rules for FPV pilots, because as I said, FPV pilots are usually more skilled than normal drone pilots. Because a lot of normal drone pilots are just people who bought this thing in the store and just started flying without checking anything. So most of the problems and loss imposed on us are actually caused by people who didn’t even bother to check any type of rules anywhere. So that’s one of the things I think there should be something like this. But I also think the governments and the authorities are overwhelmed with how quickly it’s moving forward and how easily it is accessible for people.

You started to professionalize when you started your career as FPV race pilot, when I understood that, right? When, how and why did this decision come about?

I actually didn’t make this decision.

The decision made you.

Yeah, the decision made me. So I was visiting a friend in 2015 still, and they said that they wanted to do a race with their drones. There were a couple of us, maybe a group of 15. And they set up maybe four gates and two flags and we were just flying in a circle. And it was really slow back then. Trust me, it was bad. Not exciting at all. But I was in love with the idea of racing those things, adrenaline, and generally just having a race with a lot of really cool people because it was a whole day spent with like minded people flying FPV, talking about FPV and flying all together. So I started to go on as many of those events as possible. And with time, the tracks got more interesting. The racers became faster, and people started to really put up on their skills. And at one point, I just started getting invitations for international races all over the world. And as of now, I think I’ve been on all of the continents with my FPV drones. So it kind of just happened. Because back when I started, there were like three women, I think flying FPV. So I was invited sometimes just because I was a girl, I think, maybe for the skill as well. But I remember being once invited to Korea, when they wanted to have 100 best pilots in the world. And I was the only woman that was invited. But that was 2017. There were a lot of other women already on the scene. So that was really interesting. Sometimes I’m still the only woman on the event. But this changed dramatically. And I think the most I have seen on one event was around five or maybe more. So that was fun. It’s growing. Five women at one event. That was the one which I was in. But I think last year in the US, they had more, I think.

Okay. So the next question, I think you already answered, but maybe I can say it in other words. The original question was: What is exciting about flying around small gates and pennants at unbelievable monkey-like speeds? I wanted to ask this question, because every time when I look at a video of the most advanced racing pilot in the Berlin FPV scene, I’m always getting dizzy and I can’t understand what is so fascinating in this kind of flying.

I think precision. Just the fact that you can push yourself and push your limits, plus the adrenaline and willingness to win. Obviously, the racing, of course, started when we had two of them. So it’s kind of normal that we will do it with anything we can. Two motorcycles, we can race. Two drones, oh, I can race that and show that I’m better than you. I think this is one of the part of the things. But also, yeah, really the precision of it. And the fact that adrenaline jumps so hard, it’s really getting you pumped in for the whole day. It’s really interesting. And it’s fun, I think, in general. Just being with people. I think it’s different for everyone. But for me, it’s being with people, adrenaline, and the fact that I can be better than someone else.

So I assume the prize money wasn’t enough that you can make a living out of it. So what else did your professionalization consist of in the beginning? Did you offer products, workshops? What did you do to get the money you need?

Yeah, so most of the racing events don’t really have a prize money yet. It’s too new of a sport, I guess. Some https://youtu.be/NDQaTlo5zM4of the events do, others don’t. I was a sponsored pilot. So some of the companies were sponsoring me with gear. One of the companies was paying for my events and travel and accommodation. So that was already getting it even. But main part of my business has been doing YouTube, YouTube videos. So I was getting money from sponsorships, YouTube itself. I started Patreon. So people were paying me to be a part of the community, as well as I was doing live streams on which I was answering questions. People were sending money and super chats to be sure that I answered their question. So there were those things. Plus, I started my freelancing business and doing some FPV shots for hotels, brands, and things like this. So that was the basic of my business. And I also started doing public speaking, speaking about women in drones, women in tech, FPV in general, and some inspirational speaking as well.

Lexie Janson FPV racing footage
Some FPV racing footage by Lexie Janson

Part 2 – Flying vs. building

Okay. And then this part is finished. We’ll come to the next part. One of the best things about FPV is the fact that part of it is crashing.

Oh, yes.

That’s my opinion. Failure as an integral part of continuous development.

Oh, yes.

Isn’t it difficult to overcome your own anger and caution when pushing your beautiful equipment to its limits and beyond?

Yes. I think most of the pilots are stopping a lot of things and stopping their development because they don’t want to crash. And I understand it. So this allows the sponsored pilots to go so much farther because they don’t really care if they will destroy stuff because they will get a new one anyway. I think it’s worse for the people who are just starting. And yes, crashing is a part of the whole thing, but it’s not a cheap hobby as well. So unfortunately, sometimes I’m actually stopping myself because I don’t want to crash because I know that if I crash, I’m getting out of the game sometimes, especially in finals. I’d rather go slower, but not crash. And many times this helped me out in getting through the finals and getting to the podium because other people were crashing out, out of stress and everything like this. So yeah, it’s a part of it, but we need to kind of get used to the fact that it’s possible that we’re going to crash a lot.

Okay. Crashing also requires that you must learn to build and repair your own drone.


How does one learn to do that as a person with no previous experience?

There’s a lot of videos on YouTube currently on building the drones. I actually have one course already on a platform such as Skillshare or Udemy. There’s also videos on my YouTube channel, but I’m also creating a new course right now. So there’s many places in which you can learn. Plus, you can always ask people on Facebook groups or in the community. There’s also people who will help you out if you go to any type of a meeting and ask, “Hey, I need help with building my first drone. Would you like to help me out?” They will probably help out. So I guess there’s a lot of things that you can do to learn. And it’s not that hard. My nephew, he’s 10. He built his own drone when he was nine and he was even soldering it. So it’s getting easy.

Okay. Yeah. So maybe that’s also a bit easy to say for someone with… I read your Vita … for someone with an engineering degree. So I wanted to ask you for that degree. What kind of degree is it? And when did you do that?

I’m actually an architect. So it’s not helping me with soldering. So I can build you a bridge. So yeah, I finished university, I think, back in 2015 with a degree of an engineer architect. So that’s a degree that’s not helping. I never used it even.

Yeah, maybe that’s good when you’re power looping bridges.

Yeah. Yes. I know how the bridges are made.

Okay. Yeah. But there was a kind of, yeah, I don’t know, technical interest before.

Yes, there was. I actually finished also computer science. So with programming, it was a little bit easier for me.

Okay. How about the percentage distribution of your preferences for flying and building? Because some people like building as much as flying.

I actually hate building. Well, the thing is, many times as a girl in this industry, I was asked, “Oh, do you even build your drones?” Yes. Yes, I do. I build all of them. But I think I kind of developed hatred towards the process because of those questions. Because guys usually wouldn’t get those questions. It was just something that the girls were getting. And at one point, I decided last year that I don’t want to build my drones anymore because it’s just taking so much time and I hate doing this. So I made someone else, I paid someone else to build me my drones. And since then, if someone asks me, “Do you even build your drone?” I will say, “No, I don’t. What are you going to do about it?” But the thing is also, I built so many drones throughout those nine years. It’s just insane. And I can repair my drones on the racing event. Sometimes out of three, I can make one if I crash too many. Or I can solder on my knee. There’s a lot of pictures of me doing that and doing a lot of not safe stuff just to finish the build again before my race. So I do it. But I hate doing it right now. I just want to fly. I want to enjoy it.

Yeah. I understand that. So for me, building is also very important and the things you learn with doing that and about the things which are in the chips, in the flight controllers and so on.

Yes. I would say every FPV pilot has to learn how to build their drones so they can repair it. But once you’ve been building tens, twenties and 100 drones, you don’t have to build them because you know how to repair them anyway.

Yeah, I can imagine. Do someone who wants to get into FPV flying needs a lot of money?

Currently, you don’t. You can buy the first FPV system just to decide if you like it or not with a really tiny drone for like 250, 300 euros. With those things come the goggles and the radio controller that you can reuse to your other drones if you want to. But you can also step up the game. So I would say the entry price right now is from 250 euros to 3000 euros. So it depends on you.

Yeah, maybe you can also have a little bit cheaper way into it. You can start with the controller and simulator.

Yes, of course.

Okay. The transition from the FPV scene to model builders and to the maker scene. How do you perceive the mood in the scene of [that] people?

I think a lot of people are creating more and more stuff and they move towards the maker space a lot more, not only with drones, but with other projects. I saw a lot of people using FPV drone parts into creating RC cars. And that was really interesting. And I guess we’re all learning and exploring a lot of fields that we can, but it depends. Probably after some time in FPV, you would like to move somewhere else and just move forward towards something else. I know also people who came from RC helis or RC cars into FPV. So it’s pretty much a fluid movement. Some people come in, some people go out. Some people evolve and do this and that.

Yeah. So even if you don’t like building so much because you did it so much in the past, are you doing other projects with making things, soldering, maybe planes or some completely different things?

Well, I’m currently involved with Airspeeder, which is creating a flying car. So I’m putting some of my energy into this thing, which is really huge. It’s a 300 kilogram machine. So I moved towards bigger things. But I’m also staying with an FPV and I want to teach people how they can do their own stuff. So I’m staying within the educational system and just trying to spread the love to the whole thing.

I didn’t understand that acoustically. Ass-speeder? What’s the…

Airspeeder. It’s a flying car racing. We’re trying to do Formula One, but with a crewed aircraft. So it’s going to be in three dimensional experience. It’s really interesting in Australia. So I’m one of the four pilots.

That’s also one of the things I will ask you later. Again. Okay. Next part.Y eah. Now a long question.

Part 3: FPV & Feminism

When flying FPV, the camera of the drone becomes your eye. Technology enables you to enhance your bodily functions and turns you into a kind of a cyborg. In 1985, the feminist scientist Donna Haraway used the figure of the cyborg in her cyborg manifesto, which has since been the subject of much discussions, among other things, to overcome the boundaries of traditional gender thinking, even among feminists. When your brain is in the air, does it feel like you have overcome these boundaries when you’re flying?

Yeah. I think, FPV is one of those things, and drones in general, and aviation, that doesn’t really apply to the gender roles, because all you need is hands and eyes, and we all seem to be having it. It doesn’t matter the gender. And it’s something that I haven’t really seen the difference within how guys fly and how girls fly. And it’s kind of like this really nice space in which it really doesn’t matter. And yes, sometimes we are being told that, oh, this is a guy’s thing, or this is a girl’s thing. Not really. I actually like aviation for this particular reason, because we can be cyborgs, we can do whatever we want, and aviation is really a place for everyone.

But the FPV and maker scene is still male-dominated. What about dominance, competitiveness, and mansplaining when you are back on the ground?

Oh, yeah. I have this a lot.

And maybe the reaction to your YouTube videos and so on.

So it’s interesting, because now it’s a little bit less. But I remember back in the day on the races, there was a TV crew, and they were sometimes doing interviews, and a guy just ran straight to me with a microphone, and his question to me was, “You’re a girl.” The end. And I just looked at him, looked down, and I said, “Oh, yeah, good eye.” So it used to be much more shocking. And sometimes I get people to explain to me how the things work. And I’m like, “Child, I was there when it was made.” Because I feel like a drone grandma sometimes. And yes, it’s still happening. I get a lot of really nasty comments, but I also get a lot of really nice ones. And I don’t want to be negative about it. As I said before, 99% of people are great. 1% is ruining it for everyone. And it’s getting much, much better in the makerspace and in FPV and drones. There’s actually a lot more women than I have previously anticipated.

But there’s special FPV and drone groups for women, made by women, because they seem to be having problems with the mansplaining and people not being really nice. So those drone groups with women sometimes have more people than the male or mixed groups for drones, which is really interesting.So I think there’s a lot of movement going on in there.It’s just that women don’t share it.They don’t show that they are interested in some things, or they are not really loud about it yet. So it’s something that’s changing.

I think we just lack representation. This is something that we are working on with Airspeeder to show and not just say. Because if I tell you that, “You know what? You can be a Formula One pilot or driver if you want to.” You will look at Formula One and you will say, “Of course I can.” But if I say it to a girl, it’s going to be the same situation as I had with my dad when I asked him, “Why are they just the guys in Formula One?” And my dad said, “Well, you’re going to get in there to show the other girls that they can do it too.” So it’s about showing, not saying.

So I have several times recognized that in the FPV scene, that’s a big thing, especially the mansplaining. So most people explain you things without asking you if you maybe already know them. So the missing of asking people is, I think, maybe one problem.

Yeah. I think maybe just assuming that someone doesn’t know something. Just as I said before, people assumed, “Oh, do you even build your drones?” And this is something that I saw only girls being asked ever. You wouldn’t ask this to a guy because you assume he knows how to do it. Well, some of the top FPV pilots at the time, their parents were building them drones. They wouldn’t. And those were guys. And I was still asked the question. So I think just assuming that someone doesn’t know anything is a part of the problem. And just assuming that, “Oh, because Lexie is a girl, she doesn’t know,” then it’s just not good. It’s like me saying, “Oh, I will assume you as a guy know nothing about ballet or whatever, and maybe you are into ballet because it’s nice.” I don’t know. It’s just not assuming would be great.

Yeah. But to ask it again, why do you think the most people who build and fly FPV drones are men?

Lack of representation. That’s one. Two, I can just speak out of my own experience. That when I was a child, I was always told that those are the things for the boys. And if you are being told something like this your entire life, why wouldn’t you believe it? If I was being told that you can do whatever you want, then it would look differently. But I was also a teacher for IT, for programming, and we were doing free courses for schools. And we have noticed a couple of things during this time, because we were doing it for two years. The one being, if my name was first in the explanation of what this course is about, we had more girls signing up. While if my friend, who was a man, his name was first, less girls were signing up. And sometimes we were just switching it just to see if really it works like this. And it’s true. If girls see that there is a girl involved into something that’s made for guys, then it works way, way differently. And some of the girls in primary school, when I asked them, why did they sign up for the course, they said it’s because they saw my name on it. And that means that it’s for the girls. Some of the girls actually came to me and said that their mom or their dad said that this is a boys thing. But when they showed them, but there is a girl teaching it, it was a different experience right away. So it may be their representation, or it may be just as I said, with the Formula One, how would I believe that girls can do Formula One if I don’t see any girls doing it? It doesn’t send the same message. So just showing, not saying is absolutely going to be a thing. And a lot of women currently struggle with the fact that they don’t want to be the first one because the first one has to go through a lot. Trust me with that.

I have actually been awarded this year with an award for Women to Watch in Drones as a trailblazer because I’ve been around for so long just to blaze the trail and started for everyone else. And it has not been easy.

And there’s a lot of things that I hope since I had to go through them, no one else willhave to anymore. So that’s also part of the thing. I understand that some women leave the normal groups and don’t show that they are doing those things because they just don’t want to deal with the stuff that is coming towards them just because they are being a woman, such as assumptions or really nasty messages, really nasty things that are going our way. I had to block someone just yesterday on all of my platforms, because it was really scary what this person was writing to me. I had to get police involved a couple of times. So I don’t know, you wouldn’t want to deal with this. Why would you say like, “Hey, I’m doing this.” And just by doing it, it means that you need to get police involved. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s pretty drastic. No one wants to do that. So I think that’s part of the thing. So if we show more women doing it and if it’s more normal, so the women don’t get all the stuff that we have to deal with currently, that would be so much easier to get more women involved into the whole thing. But also, just showing really is the biggest thing, because I was on a couple of races and there was a really small girl in Ireland. I will never forget her because her name was Lexie also. She was seven when I met her on the race and I asked her, did she like the race? And she said that it’s really cool, but it’s for the boys. And I asked her, “Okay, why do you think it?” And she said, “Well, because just the boys are flying.” And I mean, if you look at this logic, it makes sense. Right?

Yeah, of course. That’s the main problem with a lot of social situations.

I mean, that’s what she saw. And she made the assumption, this is for boys because just boys are doing it. So I said, “No, it’s not for the boys. I’m racing too.” And this girl was on this race the entire day with her grandpa, just watching me and cheering for me. And after this, actually her grandpa messaged me like a month later. And he said that, “Thank you for whatever you told to my granddaughter because she now signed up for a STEM program in school.” Because she said, “This is for everyone because I saw another girl doing it.” And this was this clicking moment for me. You just need to show that it’s for everyone and then it’s going to be for everyone.

Yeah. But despite of that, what you are doing and can do with showing and so on, do you have kind of an idea what could be done in general to change that?

When you have advertisements for drones, include women in it. If you have racing leagues, currently Drone Champions League, DCL, has added one of the groups that was just female team. There were just girls in the team and they have been girls in the other teams as well. So just showing is going to make a huge change. With Airspeeder, we are starting the racing with the men and the women in. We’re all equals and this is how we start the sport. So it’s showing right away. It’s for everyone and just showing it. There’s a league called DRL, which has only guys aged 20, 30 all the time. And then they ask me, “How do we get more girls involved?” And I said, “Well, put the girls into your roster.” And it’s been going on for a couple of years. They ask me a question, I give them the answer. They don’t do it. So they come back and I’m like, “Guys, I told you.” So yeah, it’s just showing. Really just showing. Not as a trophy girl, not just as, “Oh, hey, look, we have a girl. She’s always the last and she kind of sucks, but she’s there.” That’s not going to send the message. It has to be women who actually know their stuff and that can be role models for everyone else. And it cannot be that there’s 15 guys and one girl because it doesn’t send the message. At least two, come on. We can do it. We have possibilities of doing that.

Yeah. Are there any women-only groups, and you already told, but are there any groups and associations where women or people in general who don’t want to behave in a gender classified way in order to be able to fly in peace? So maybe, you know some, can tell me some one or two.

Yes. So there’s a couple of Facebook groups that are, for example, Women Who Drone. This is a group for women only. There’s two racing teams as of now. They are called Mach One, which I’m a member of, and there’s Rosie Rippers. They are in US. So those are two groups of girls only, but our idea was not just to make a girl-only club, but to show that there’s actually many women involved in FPV and drones, just to show that the group is huge, and it’s not just one or two girls. So that’s two. But yeah, there’s a lot of groups that you can find. But most of the groups really of people around, they don’t really care if you’re a man or a woman or non-binary, what’s your age, nationality, and so on. It’s a really diverse environment for drone pilots. So this is one of the things that makes it beautiful. And also, it’s an open place for people with disabilities. I know a person that’s deaf and still flies racing really well. There’s a guy who doesn’t have hands, and he also flies FPV really well. So it’s absolutely for everyone, and this is what makes it beautiful.

Lexie Janson FPV freestyle footage
Some FPV freestyle footage by Lexie Janson

Part 4: Youtube, present + future

Yeah, that sounds like a dream. You are one of the few non-male Youtubers. Most of them start out very idealistically of the YouTubers. As soon as they become professionals, they try to make money on all channels, and quite often the quality of the video suffers because advertising and product videos increase. How do you deal with the balancing act between idealistic enthusiasm and unpleasant but vital commercialism?

So the thing is, there is no money in FPV. All the sponsored pilots mostly get gear and you cannot really pay your rent with motors. If you want to fly professionally and put all of your time and strength into training, it’s going to take a lot of time and balancing it with nine to five and family is really, really tough. I personally, I struggled with the same thing because I started to not to have enough time to do the edits of my own videos because there’s just no time editing a five minute video. If you want to make it good, that’s like eight or nine hours of work and people don’t see it. I understand that of course, yes, we’re going to do reviews of products, but mostly in FPV, it’s also product in exchange for a video and it’s just trying to make as much content as possible. And it’s easier to create a review rather than just a random flight or a vlog and things like this. So yes, it’s going to be there. And I just really hope that a lot of the pilots are sharing their real thoughts rather than just giving a positive review for something that they got for free. So that’s the thing, a lot of companies say, “Oh, you’re going to get this drone for free.” It’s not really free. You’re going to write a script, make a video, you need to buy the gear, you need to edit it. This is not free. This is your time and your work. There is nothing for free. And you basically, if you need to buy more things for this, you basically pay them to make a video for them. This makes no sense. So what I started doing was that I started doing more freelancing and I do still some sponsored content because I do need to pay myself. I need to pay my own bills and I need to pay my editor because I have a person right now to edit the videos so I will be able to release them. I have a person that’s doing half of my videos and the other half I’m still doing myself because they’re expensive as well. So it’s something that people need to kind of understand that YouTube is not paying people a lot of money. I’m sometimes getting paid like 150 euros a month for videos a month. And it’s like, you cannot pay bills with this. So supporting people through Patreon or just sharing their videos with wider audience, leaving a like, leaving a comment, things like this is going to make a huge, huge difference for them because they see that their work is appreciated. They maybe can get more money if someone clicks on the advertisement on their video. And it’s just something that we need to balance because we need to just understand that a lot of those things, they are not being paid for.

Yeah. But I think the balance, to keep the balance is very complicated. So for an example, I looked all the early Bardwell videos and they were great. He always looked to make cheap buildings for the people who don’t have so much money. He really tested very long and made a lot of effort in this work and that reduced a bit. So sometimes he presents drones, which he doesn’t really test [for a] longer time. And so this thing you also told about that he’s sponsored by the people, he gets the gear for free. You recognize, that it changed him. So his videos, the quality of his videos has reduced a bit because of that. So that was part of this question.

Yeah. I think that for him, it’s also he needs to support his family. So he has much more things to do than, for example, me. I’m just a single little Lexie while he has a family to feed. So I understand that he would take more of such sponsored stuff and he just needs to have a job and this is his only job right now.

But I think his woman has also a job. I think I heard him talking about that in one of his videos. But yes, of course, that’s right. But that is maybe a problem for people who are making video because you want to have a lot of watchers and they watch ihttps://youtu.be/NDQaTlo5zM4t if they like your videos. But if the quality reduces when you make faster and don’t do such an effort in the videos, it …

I think it’s a balance, but at the same time, it’s also how much work we put into the thing and how much we get in return. If I spent four days editing videos, like four times eight hours, let’s say, plus recording them plus scripting them and I get 100 euros for that and I cannot pay my bills. Why would I do it and why would I put so much effort into it? It’s kind of working both ways. So I understand both sides of this issue. So I’m kind of there for both.

Okay. Drones like the ones you use contain a lot of not very environmentally friendly substances. Can you fly FPV in an environmentally friendly way? Is it possible?

Well, if you don’t crash much, then yeah.

I saw a video of you where you talked a little bit about that.

Yes, yes. The propellers especially, they go really fast and they are not environmentally friendly and you cannot really recycle them. That’s the problem. It’s going to be really hard, but I really hope that with time, it’s going to be easier to make them environmentally friendly. But I don’t really think it’s possible right now unless you just don’t crash much. I would invest in more expensive components that don’t break that often if you want to be more environmentally friendly.

Yeah. I also made the experience that foldable props are good. Maybe not so good for the power and for the thrust, but they are not damaging so often as the other ones.

Yeah, that’s true.

And another point is the batteries.

Oh yeah, we cannot do anything about that, I think. Not now, not yet.

Yeah, okay. We are near to the end, so just a few questions. You have started to put yourself in people carrying drones and fly without, even though it’s much safer to be in the drone with both feet on the ground at the same time. Why did you dohttps://youtu.be/NDQaTlo5zM4 that?

I think after eight years of flying FPV, when I got proposed the job for Airspeeder and to get into the crewed racing, I just thought that this is the greatest thing I have seen in a while. I want to do that. So it’s actually funny because they sent me an email asking if I want to get paid for flying drones and I answered them, “I’m already doing it. What’s your point?” I didn’t even check them or anything because I thought it’s a scam, but they messaged me back explaining what they are doing and they said that they want me to race it remotely and then get into the aircraft and race it as Formula One of the sky. And that was just the same moment as with the goggles for the first time. I just looked at the email, I looked at their videos, I understood what they were doing and I said to myself, “I’m going to do it my entire life right now.” So it was the same moment. It’s something brand new and I had a chance of showing that it’s for everyone because I’m the only girl doing it right now. And it was a brand new experience, something new to do and something new to put in front of myself and to go after. So I think I needed something like this and it’s a brand new thing. I mean, we all watched the Family of Jetsons on Cartoon Network. If you are a millennial, you know what I’m saying. And they had those flying cars. Where are they? It’s 2024. It’s 2023. Where are my flying cars? So yeah, I just wanted to be a part of this. So maybe in the future, when I’m 80 years old and someone comes for me in the flying taxi, I will be there: “I was there when this started.”

Yeah, great. You have been doing less FPV videos lately. You have been flying around for a while and worked for Airspeeder in Australia. You flew back and forth a lot. Now you are in Ireland, or maybe not anymore. How are you living now? What are you doing and how are you doing?

I’m great. I’m on the athlete contract with Airspeeder. So I’m going to go to Australia in winter for another race. So it’s going to be summer in Australia. Really great weather. Really great to skip winter in Europe, by the way. I’m also doing a lot of freelancing work. So I’m doing videos and some content with other companies such as European Aviation Safety Authority, or some private companies. I’m also creating a brand new course for people who want to learn FPV, how to fly, how to build and things like this. So this is a really big project that I’m working on right now. And I’m currently just spending time with my family because I’m traveling so much, it makes no sense to rent anything anywhere. And my sister lives close to the airport, so I’m kind of staying with her at the moment. So it’s easier for me.

Okay. And what are your plans, despite Airspeeder, for the near future?

I hope we’re going to start the crew racing really, really soon. And I hope to go out of Australia and race all over the world and show everyone how it’s done.

Did your parents or maybe somebody else supported you? 

My parents are actually really supportive. At first they were worried, you know, as parents. And my mom is actually funny because when I was a child, my mom said that computer won’t give me money. And now I’m literally working from my computer. So take that mom. But she said the same thing about drones. And she said, drones won’t give you money. So again, take that mom. There were a lot of people who were supporting me on my journey. But I think my parents are generally really supportive of everything that I do. And they are proud of what I’ve done. So I just want to thank my family for being there with me through the really hard times and the easier ones.

Lexie Janson Airspeeder footage
Airspeeder footage by Lexie Janson
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