A man who can’t walk is now able to ‘fly’ and see all his favourite places from the air after becoming the world’s first – quadriplegic DRONE pilot.
Former surfer James Bedding, 37, was just 15 when he fell from a harbour wall and broke his neck confining him to an electric wheelchair.
He has still been able to visit some of his old haunts on the Channel Island of Jersey, there are many places his chair hasn’t be able to get to.
But James says he was given a new lease of life after he discovered drones.
James, who is understood to be the world’s first quadriplegic drone pilot, flies it using a stylus he controls with his mouth.
His new found freedom has enabled him to witness sights and areas he thought would never be possible because of his disability.
And more than 20 years after his love of surfing was snatched away from him in a freak accident, James says he has been able to feel the thrill of the ocean once more.
He said: “There are so many places that I can’t get to because of my chair. The drone gives me the freedom to fly up to them.
“I like to go out for a drive and get the drone out. It’s improved my quality of life, definitely.
“My favourite place to fly is St Ouens, out towards the sea. There are so many nice places and coastal features.
“I’d like to take the drone away and see some other places, like America – but anywhere would be good.
“I’m trying to turn it into a business, quite often when I’m taking pictures people ask to buy for them so I thought I’d give it a go.”
James started sharing pictures from his drone work and was inundated with requests from people looking to buy his work, so he decided to turn his hobby into a business.
To do so, James had to pass his Commercial Drone License – and now he has become the first quadriplegic to own one.
After months of studying, James passed his test with 94 per cent on the theory exam and an A- on the practical, and was awarded his licence in July.
With his license, James’ is now free to sell the pictures he takes with his DJI Maverick Pro – which he does under the name Quad Photography.
James said the name was a bit of a pun, because the drone is lifted by four rotors, and “I am quadriplegic. It’s a little play on words.
“I’m the first quadriplegic with a commercial drone license.
“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.”
James’ life changed forever 22 years ago, when he went to go surfing with some friends.
He added: “I was injured when I was 15. It was the first day of the summer holidays and me and some friends went for a surf.
“It was low tide and I fell off the harbour wall, I broke my neck and was in a coma for four days.
“I adapted after my accident, I did different things and I had good friends and family around me.
“We would go partying and that sort of thing.
“I would get out and about as often as possible, I was always active, but there’s a limit to where my electric chair can go. With the drone I can see a lot more places.
“It takes me to places I couldn’t get to other wise. It’s amazing.”
James lives in St Clements on the Channel Island of Jersey on his own, but is regularly visited by his mum, Anne, 49, and dad, 70. He also has a 42-year-old sister, Caroline.