Description: Drones, video games, and prosthetic limbs all come together in this touching story about James Young, an amputee who received a state-of-the-art bionic arm with a drone attached.
To help James fundraise for Titanium Implants, donate at www.gofundme.com/titaniumjames.
Drones are viewed by many as the wave of the future. One London man took that one step further by combining his prosthetic arm with a drone. Our Tyler Mason has the story.
James Young doesn’t have any memory of the incident that took his left arm and left foot. All he knows is that he fell on a train track in his hometown of London and woke up without two of his limbs.
That was in 2012. Flash forward four years, where Young is now on the cutting edge of technology.
Video game company Konami was looking for someone to receive a prosthetic arm similar to one used by a character in the game Metal Gear Solid. They eventually picked Young.
“One of these times, they were looking for an amputee video gamer on the website, so I was just immediately very confused, like, ‘Am I reading this right? Why do they want an amputee video gamer?’”
Young received a prosthetic arm of the future made by the Alternative Limb Project. The bionic arm gave Young some ability to move the fingers through nerves in his shoulders.
What makes the arm truly unique is what is attached to the shoulder: a small drone. The idea came about during a brainstorming session between Young and one of the arm’s designers.
“She was like, ‘Why don’t we just get a quadcopter or something or a little robot that rolls around?’ It was like, ‘Quadcopters are clearly the coolest one,’ so we just went for that.”
The drone didn’t have quite enough power to launch from the arm. Instead, Young would remove it first before taking flight.
And since his bionic hand only had limited movement, Young used the controller like he did when playing video games.
“We didn’t know if we were going to have controls in the arm so I could fly the drone like that. What we learned from video gaming, I use my mouth to control the left stick, and the buttons and stuff. Why mess with that with trying to make it really easy with one hand, because I can use my face as well.”
Since his accident, Young has become heavily involved in the designing of his limbs. His current hand is limited in its functionality, and he hopes that changes in the future as technology advances.
“The problem with me is we’re using sensors on my shoulders. I’ve literally just got two, boop and boop. You can’t control the hand with the fidelity necessary to control it just by telling it to open and shut in different ways.”
Young has primarily flown FPV drones, including the one on his arm. That quad was designed by Mobulair, a British company that makes customized drones.
Though crashes have been part of the flying process for Young, the ability to fly has been a freeing feeling. That was the case on a recent trip to France, where he spent time in the mountains after giving a presentation.
“I had a really good time there, but I did the talk and then I booked some time up in the Alps just to go and chill by myself. But I wasn’t by myself. I was with my drone. I took my 250 and started flying around the Alps. It’s just crazy cool because it’s the most astonishing environment and you’re just up in the sky. It’s incredible.”
Young has seen how technology has improved in recent years both in the drone world and in the world of prosthetic limbs. He is scheduled to have a surgery next month that will take nerves that were going to his hand and move them to his chest.
The hope is Young will have more control of a bionic hand after the surgery and a long rehabilitation. He’s also in the process of raising money for a titanium implant in both his arm and leg. Young is still 60,000 pounds — or about $73,000 — short of his goal on his Go Fund Me page.
Whatever happens in the future with his arm, Young hopes drones continue to be a part of his life.
“It’s just fun. I think especially with FPV, it’s just really, really great to be free. One of the weird things is that in a weird kind of way you could use that as a little metaphor thinking about the future of humans integrating with technology and using external devices and having sensors off the devices like the sight of the drone to just go control things and interact with stuff outside of their own bodies. It’s like an extension of your body, even.”
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