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Paralyzed Man Becomes the First Quadriplegic to Operate a Drone Using His Mouth

Paralyzed Man Becomes the First Quadriplegic to Operate a Drone Using His Mouth


James Bedding has lived his whole life in Jersey in the Channel Islands, off the coast of Normandy, France. Like many who live on an island, the ocean becomes a central theme in your cultural upbringing. James grew up loving everything about the ocean. He would climb over rock pools, go surfing, and spend his days playing along the shore with his friends. All of that changed on the first day of summer vacation when James was 15 years old. He was climbing on top of a sea wall, something he had done numerous times before, and fell during low tide. After four days in a coma, James awoke in the hospital with severe spinal injuries. “As a result,” James said, “I lost the function of my body from shoulders down.” From that day on James has been confined to an electric wheelchair, a fact that has never held him back.

The road to recovery was a long arduous one, but now at 37 years old James has found a way to reach beyond the confines of his wheelchair. “This accident changed everything for me, but it didn’t dent my creative spirit,” James said. “It wasn’t an easy journey, but several years later, I got my first drone, an EHANG Ghost drone.” This small, lightweight drone was easy to control through a mobile app. An inexpensive drone, it was an excellent choice for James as he would be able to control it from his phone mounted to his wheelchair. People all over the world are amazed at how drones have the ability to show them the world from a whole new perspective. For James, gaining this new perspective was a profound accomplishment. With his drone up in the air he was free to see the world from his chair.

James fell so in love with the process of flying a drone, using it to take pictures, and then using these pictures as a way to see the island that he decided to upgrade his drone system. He purchased a DJI Maverick Pro, one of the most popular drones on the market because of it’s ease of use and superb camera quality. There was only one problem, rather than using an app like the Ghost drone, DJI uses a video game-like controller. “You need to have hand control to control the drone, which came up with an issue obviously because I can’t physically hold it,” he said. That’s when I looked into getting a mount to mount the control on the chair, so I could use the pins sticks to control it.” With the help of a friend and a 3D printer, James is now able to have the drone’s controller in the exact spot needed to give him total control over the drone. “I control my chair with a chin controller and I fly the drone using a mouth stylus. I pick it up with my mouth and use it to push the joysticks. It took some getting used to. The first time I went out it was hard but I tried again and I’ve got there now.”

With the right equipment, the next logical step for James was to become a licensed drone pilot. James began studying for the written and practical exams to obtain his PfCO (Permissions for Commercial Operations), similar to a Part 107 in the United States of America. After several months of training, James officially became licensed to fly a drone commercially. He could now sell the stunning pictures and videos he took of his island home. James named his company Quad Photography, proving that a little humor goes a long way. He said the idea stemmed from the fact that since drones fly with the use of four rotors they are often called quadcopters. He then added, “I am quadriplegic. It’s a little play on words. I’m the first quadriplegic with a commercial drone license.”

James loves that with the pictures he takes with his drone, people are now seeing the Channel Islands through his eyes. But, what he loves even more, is that he once again gets to see his beloved island. “It’s massive for me,” James says. “One thing I really miss is surfing; I used to love surfing when I was young. Now I can fly the drone out there and see people waiting for a wave like I used to. It sounds silly but I can sort of wait with them, I get that same sensation, that same buzz. It’s really bizarre but it’s so cool. The drone lets me get out and about and see different places. Even if it’s rough terrain I can get there and I can fly up to it.”

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