Quadriplegic drone pilot hopes to make an impact with his inclusive drone project, ‘Flight Takes Many Forms’


Rob Corbett served in the United States Air Force as a criminal and counter-intelligence investigator for over a decade. In 2016, after 4 long deployments, he left active duty and became a reservist. One month into his transition, a freak snowboarding accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.

‘I knew on impact something was wrong and I felt totally disconnected from the shoulders down. I was air lifted off the mountain to the nearest trauma center and that is where the new chapter began for my family,’ Corbett tells DPReview.

‘My wife was by my side upon arrival and mind you she was only 8 days away from giving birth to our youngest daughter. Together we pushed forward and somehow navigated months upon months of hospitalization, rehabilitation all while raising two children and learning life over again. Once we returned home my mind was set on returning to the workforce and repurposing my skills and experience.’

Since then, Corbett has been flying drones and educating others, on their many uses. Now, Rob is looking to deliver his message and teachings to a broader audience. A documentary, ‘Flight Takes Many Forms,’ is in the works and he’s raising money on Kickstarter. DPReview had a chance to talk to Rob about this inclusive project, focusing on a diverse range of remote pilots from all walks of life.

Can you share more about what inspired this project?

I had been around aviation and remote piloted aircraft most of my career and always wanted to be a pilot of some kind. With some experience flying drones recreationally in the past I felt even with limited mobility, I could safely fly drones again. So the journey began.

Drones level the playing field and are viable forms of creativity, therapy, and vocational opportunities for so many people.

I took a position teaching a technology course for adults with disabilities and noticed the curriculum could incorporate drones and the Part 107 certification. I built the program based on my research of adapting drones to fly personally. This was when ‘Flight Takes Many Forms’ came to be. In many forms of aviation people with disabilities are excluded. Drones level the playing field and are viable forms of creativity, therapy, and vocational opportunities for so many people.

I believe in the benefits of the technology and experienced first hand how drones improve peoples quality of life. At the height of my program taking off, COVID, budgeting and not enough need for drone pilots in the local job market stalled any forward progress. So I began independently advocating for adaptive/inclusive drone training and operations. The sUAS community has been supportive and I continue to collaborate with the FAA, AUVSI working with industry leaders, nonprofits and organizations on how to be more inclusive with their programs and training.

What type of impact have drones had in your life since the accident?

Drones have been a crucial part of my life post injury. The adventure of exploring places I can no longer reach due to my wheelchair is invaluable. Using drones as a creative outlet is much needed and extremely therapeutic. Flying drones is a way to connect with my wife and children on many levels and I am grateful for the opportunity to do just that.

Rob training a student.

Lastly, it provides an environment for vocational opportunities and growth. Drones really have improved my quality of life on every level and I hope to do the same for others. When I launch a drone I forget I am paralyzed or stressed it’s just focus on the beauty around me and the unique perspective it brings.

What can we expect from ‘Flight Takes Many Forms’ as far as storyline and guests?

‘Flight Takes Many Forms’ is more than a motto it’s a movement to highlight and represent unique and diverse uses of drones and the people behind the controls – drone users from around the globe collaborating, coming together and sharing their stories through their art.

The main highlights of the documentary will be underrepresented populations of people. People from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities, women, people with physical and cognitive disabilities, and those from rural outpost to inner cities will be represented. The documentary will hopefully give a visual to people everywhere and communicate ‘I can do that.’

The documentary will hopefully give a visual to people everywhere and communicate ‘I can do that.’

It will hopefully inspire others and foster innovation along with improvement in the industry. I encourage everyone to share why they fly drones and what inspires them to use the technology for their passion. So anyone wanting to be apart of the documentary, or to collaborate, please reach out.

I see you’ve minted some NFTs (non-fungible tokens). What attracted you to the space?

A friend and fellow veteran Ernest Spicer, Ignis Studios Inc, reached out and wanted to assist with raising funds for the documentary and the inclusive drone efforts. We discussed possibly minting NFT’s as a way to fundraise. So we recently put some work on OpenSea and we’re hoping it will take off.

The vision is that the profit from all NFTs sold will go directly to the documentary and inclusive drone efforts. The space is unique and allows people to showcase their art, cause and vision so I felt why not give it a try? Hopefully some positive things will happen.

There’s about 6 weeks left to support Rob Corbett’s project via Kickstarter. You can also keep up with him on Twitter.

Note/disclaimer: Remember to do your research with any crowdfunding project before backing it. Pledges to crowdfunding campaigns are not pre-orders. DPReview does not have a relationship with this, or any such campaign, and we publicize only projects that appear legitimate, and which we consider will be of genuine interest to our readers. You can read more about the safeguards Kickstarter has in place on its ‘Trust & Safety’ page.

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