Drone Racing: Local Hero Excels at New International Sport

When Johnny Schaer was 20 years old and told his parents he wanted to drop out of college to pursue drone racing, they weren’t thrilled.

But then Schaer won second place in the Drone Racing League World Championship on ESPN and he’s now bringing in a considerable income in endorsements. His parents have come around.

“It’s just enough to make my parents say ‘Alright, there may be a future in this,” Schaer jokes.

Drone racing combines drone technology with virtual reality. The pilots wear goggles that allow them to see what the drone “sees” as it flies up to 80 miles per hour on elaborate racecourses.  It’s called “first person view” or FPV racing.  Schaer’s racing name is Johnny FPV. 

When he’s not racing, Schaer creates YouTube videos to promote himself and the sport. A few examples are below.   

He and many FPV racers build their own drones and repair them when they crash. “If you’re not crashing,” says Schaer, “you’re not pushing your limits and you’re not improving.” 

His mother, Zosia Schaer-Wittleder, remembers his high school guidance counsellor telling the parents that many of their kids would someday work in jobs that had not yet been invented. That certainly is true for her son.

Watch Schaer in action:




Related stories:

Shoe Repair Dynasty: A Dozen Cobblers Across 3 Generations

Jan. 4: An 83-year-old cobbler inspires a shoe repair dynasty that spans three generations.


Tong’s Trains: The Surprising Backstory of a WTTW Favorite Lunch Spot

Dec. 1: Growing up with a Chinese restaurant on the first floor, an extended family upstairs and a killer train set in the basement. The story behind our neighborhood Chinese lunch place.


A Rowdy Good Time: Drag Boat Racing at Blarney Island

Aug. 26: Boats fly by at speeds up to 150 miles per hour on an 800-foot course. There is drag boat racing every Thursday night all summer long at Blarney Island on Grass Lake. Jay Shefsky goes to the races and takes a 94 mph ride on a race boat.


Tags: