Plymouth High student Jake Capobres excels at drone racing
Jake Capobres is a fan of building things.
From a young age, he was fascinated by remote control cars and airplanes, building them up and finding out what he could do with them.
As he got older, Capobres aimed to expand his building to something different, something he found not many people his age, let alone adults, could build well: drones.
Starting at age 11, Capobres not only began to build drones, but he began to race them, joining the Detroit Drone Racing team in the MultiGP league prior to the 2018 season.
More: Larger than life: South Lyon East football prepares for season without Trevon Tyler
More: KLAA West football preview 2020: What to watch for
Two years later, at 14, Capobres, better known as “JakeHammer,” is the No. 4 racer in the world, finishing his latest qualifying race in 30.06 seconds.
The Plymouth High School student holds sponsorships from major drone companies, and has his eyes set on a championship, which he will compete for in Daytona Beach, Florida, Oct. 29-Nov. 8.
Capobres said he started at the bottom when joining Detroit Drone Racing. But because of the quality of racers on the team, he became very good, very quickly.
“There’s really, really fast guys in Detroit,” Capobres said. “As I started competing with them more, I found when I went to other events that I was competing with some of the faster guys from all around.”
John Chapman, who goes by “JohnEFly,” was one of those faster racers Capobres latched on to.
From the moment Chapman first met Capobres, he sensed the 11-year-old’s confidence. He was comfortable, approaching him ahead of a race at Farwell Field in Detroit with no parent in sight.
“I just remember looking around being like, ‘Are you here with anyone else?’” Chapman said.
Drone racing is extremely fast-paced, with drones, going up to 120 mph, maneuvering throughout a set course — seeing the action through a pair of goggles.
“It’s kind of like a real life video game, so when you are wearing the goggles, it looks like you are in the actual airplane,” Capobres said.
But like most novice racers, according to Chapman, Capobres started slow. But with his drone-building ability, the 39-year-old pro felt the 11-year-old already had a leg up on many adults in the league.
Jake Capobres works on soldering in a new engine to his racing drone after a crash during a practice run. (Photo: JOHN HEIDER | hometownlife.com)
After he got the drone into the air — which proved at times to be a struggle in his first year, with facing different technological issues — Chapman saw that Capobres could fly, showing a level of maturity that was unheard of in pilots his age and having a “quest for knowledge” to improve his craft.
“We always knew that he would have potential, but we just saw him progressing,” Chapman said. “This year, he took a massive leap forward. He’s just at a whole different level. We did not expect this fast to get where he got now.”
Don Capobres does not “speak drone.”
Neither him or his wife had any experience with drones, or even remote control cars and airplanes his son Jake took up prior. With this, his and his son’s world has changed, due to the fact that those who are in the world of drone racing took Jake in.
“Because I don’t race and I don’t build drones, these folks have kind of took him in and really taught him,” Don Capobres said. “Jake came in with some skills, obviously, but these guys — some of them have raced on TV, are the best in the world — kind of took him in. It didn’t matter if he was an 11, 12-year-old kid and obviously had some learning to do. They were really patient with him and it’s just been amazing.
“We barely know how to charge batteries.”
To Don, Jake is a sponge, soaking in information about drones. He watched him turn racing from a hobby — taking the field at West Middle School in Plymouth with the goal of getting the drone through the uprights of the field goal posts — to an actual career path, a future.
To Jake, that’s where his maturity comes in, not shying away from getting help from other team members.
“If you have a question and you ask someone, there’s more than likely five people that are helping you out, trying to solve any issue that you have,” Jake Capobres said. “That’s what makes it more of an easy hobby to get into or sport to get into, that there are so many people that are willing to help you.”
Moving forward, Capobres said his goal is to continue to increase his ranks with MultiGP, but to also explore other racing leagues that focus more on an international scale. He wants to continue to focus on drones themselves, forging a career path and something that he can do long term.
Don Caopbres sees that in his son’s future.
Already watching Jake make split decisions in racing, fixing his own drones on the fly, dealing with sponsorships, Don Capobres believes his son is on the path to do whatever he wants in the drone world.
At the very least, he will find something to do that he will enjoy.
“At the very minimum, Jake’s never going to have a job that he doesn’t like because at the very minimum, and he’s already been offered and already done this, he can work at a hobby store or drone shop,” Don Capobres said. “If that’s all he does and he’s happy, then wow, he’s never had a job that he’s hated.
Contact reporter Colin Gay at [email protected] or 248-330-6710. Follow him on Twitter @ColinGay17. Send game results and stats to [email protected]