Author Archives: Alan Proto

Recommend a Friend – Get £50. Give £50.

How it Works

  1. Click on the Link below to Register as a Recommender.  This sends us an email to us to let us know you are in the Scheme
  2. Get in touch with friends and family, and recommend they take a look at all of the fantastic ways in which we can help them with their drone adventure
  3. If you want, share their contact details with us, and we’ll get in touch (by email or telephone – you tell us) with them to help them make the right choice of drone hardware and / or training
  4. Tell them that when they make their purchase, in the Notes Section, they should enter “Recommend a Friend” (or something similar, we won’t get hung up about typos) followed by your name
  5. We’ll immediately refund them 10% of the cost of their purchase, up to a maximum of £50
  6. And we’ll contact you to find out where you would like us to send your crisp new £50 note
  7. Thank you!

CLICK HERE to REGISTER as a RECOMMENDER

Special Offer on UK and European Holidays

  1. We are the original experts in Drone Holidays, Experiences, and Masterclasses
  2. We run 4-day UK Masterclasses regularly to Skye; the Lake District; the Yorkshire Dales; and the Dorset Coast
  3. We run longer trips to Andalucia in Spain; Corfu on a 50ft yacht; the French Pyrenees; and the Mountains and Monasteries of Central Greece
  4. Sign up for one of our trips with a mate, or flying partner, and each of you gets £100 off the price of the trip.  Note that non-flying partners are also very welcome.  They pay half price on all of our trips

Terms and Conditions

  1. There is no limit to the number of friends you can recommend
  2. When a friend you recommend makes a purchase from us, they can use the Voucher Code above to get 10% off the cost of whatever they purchase, up to a maximum of £50
  3. When they do, we will send you 10% of the cost of whatever they purchase, in cash, up to a maximum of £50
  4. This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers
  5. This offer applies to everything we sell: one-to-one lessons; drone workshops and Masterclasses; UK and European drone holidays; and drone hardware and accessories
  6. This offer is time-limited.  Offer ends 31 December 2019

And the Winner Is……

Old Harry Rocks from drone

 

We have a WINNER of our Drone Photography Masterclass Prize Draw

Congratulations Naomi Youd, Wedding Photographer, from Wiltshire.  Your prize is a one-day Masterclass in the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, the Isle of Skye, or the Jurassic Coast in Dorset (you choose which!) with PhantomFlightSchool, led by a world-class Landscape Photographer and Drone Pilot.  Worth £249

In case you missed them, we have extended our SHOW OFFERS until midnight this Friday 22 March 2019

Don’t forget, we are also an Authorised DJI Retailer, and stock the full DJI range.  Buy a drone from us, and get a free one-hour one-to-one drone flying lesson worth £120.

Free Workshop worth £150 when you book a drone flying holiday

Reserve your place on one of our drone holidays and come to one of our workshops (Normal Cost £150) absolutely FREE.

Go to our 2019 holiday programme

£300 deposit is all we require to reserve your place.  Book your Holiday and then use the following discount code to claim your free workshop:  DISCOUNT CODE: Photoshow150

Free two hour lesson worth £200 when you book a PfCO course

Reserve your place on one of our PfCO Courses and get a two-hour one-to-one drone flying lesson (Normal Cost £200) absolutely FREE.

Go to our 2019 PfCO programme

£300 deposit is all we require to reserve your place.  Book your PfCO and then use the following discount code to claim your free workshop:  DISCOUNT CODE: Photoshow200

20% discount on all one-to-one drone flying lessons, flying lesson vouchers and one-day Workshops

Protect Your Investment, Learn to Fly with the Experts. Get More Out of Your Flying.

Book a Lesson

Use this code to get 20% off until midnight on Friday.  DISCOUNT CODE: Photoshow20

 

Meteora, Greece – Research for our new drone holiday destination for 2019

An aerial shot from drone of a hilltop village in Meteora, Greece

Unlock the Real Greece on a Drone Adventure to Meteora, Greece with PhantomFlightSchool and George Blonsky

I spent last week in the company of a very special person, in a very special place.

George Blonsky is part-English, part-Greek, and has spent roughly half his life in each.  He is fluent in both.  He has been a photographer for 30 years, and in that time has photographed: celebrities on red carpets; rare pelicans, bears, wolves and other amazing wildlife in his native Greece; incredible landscapes around the world; and for the last 14 years, the work that gives him the most pleasure, the Paralympics, Winter and Summer.  An image of his of a Norwegian Paralympic Biathlete was chosen by Samsung as their billboard image for the Korean Winter Games earlier this year.  He has shot for Getty, for Nike, photographed Pele and Ralph Fiennes for the Sunday Times, and shot for dozens, if not hundreds, of other household names.  As well as all that, George is now a drone pilot, trained by PhantomFlightSchool.  Take a look at some of his amazing photographs at https://www.geopictorial.com/index

George and I met at The Photography Show in March 2018, and I was immediately arrested by his amazing photographs of Meteora – an extraordinary place in the very centre of Greece where there exist six monasteries, perched hundreds of metres high on top of extraordinary rock outcrops, which for centuries could only be reached by means of baskets and ropes, which, it is said, were only replaced when the Lord signaled they needed to be, by breaking them.  He suggested the monasteries would look even more incredible filmed from a drone.  We agreed to put that idea to the test, with a view to inviting PhantomFlightSchool clients to join us in 2019 if he were proved right.

Hence I came to be picked up by George from Thessaloniki Airport late last Saturday evening.  From there it was straight to a local taverna known to George, where we dined on delicious Pork Pyrgos, delicious fresh Tzatziki, and heavenly flatbread.  Everyone else in the place speaking Greek.  George insisted on paying, explaining that this is his Country, so it was his right to pay.  As George wished me goodnight in the hotel lobby, he said “welcome” in a way I had never heard it said before.  He really meant it.

Sunday we drove to Meteora.  Meteora is a long way from anywhere.  Four hours from Athens.  Three from Thessaloniki, where I had flown into.  But the journey flew by, because the scenery en-route was never less than spectacular.  First came the delta of the River Axios.  Some 60kms long, and more than 10kms wide, this is truly nature’s bread-basket.  A paradise of reed beds, and orchards that go on for kms, with apples, pears, apricots, peaches, plums, and walnuts and chestnuts for good measure.  It is said that here, you can put a dead stick in the ground, and in a year you will have a healthy tree.  This is where Alexander the Great was born, and died.  And this delta is the reason Thessaloniki is Greece’s second city.

Leaving the delta, we began to climb into the mountains.  Imperturbable behind his Oakleys, George turns to me and says “this is where Bears live”, moments before we pass a road sign explaining exactly that.  As we climb, the air becomes crystal clear, and the sky, a deep deep blue.  Arriving on a high plateau, we make rapid progress towards our destination on excellent roads.  Soon after, we are checking into a smart hotel where the staff greet us like long lost cousins, in the village of Kastragi .   The view from the bedrooms and their balconies, as well as the delightful garden where we took breakfast each morning, is breath-taking.  Huge rock outcrops.  Towering above us.  Hundreds of metres tall.  Vertical, or in some cases, overhanging the valley.  I glimpse what looks like a building on the top of one of them.  Really?

Despite having seen George’s photographs.  Despite having done my homework about Meteora online in advance, I was completely unprepared for the sight before my eyes when we left the hotel an hour before dusk, and drove a short way to the main viewing point for the Meteora Monasteries.  What the monks went through to build their “monasteries in the sky” (which is the translation for Meteora) beggars belief.  Today, people come here for the beauty of the place, the majesty of the rock monoliths, and the sense of spirituality that pervades the place.  When they were built, I expect it was only spirituality the monks had in mind.  Incredible.

What a place to fly a drone.  From the moment I took off from a quiet spot away from the few tourists that were stopping at the main viewing points, the images I was seeing on my screen took  my breath away.  So much vertical space.  Such an incredible backdrop provided by the craggy peaks and the fluffy white cloud studded sky.  Light of such limpid beauty.  And the monasteries themselves.  Providing focal points for my filming like nothing I have ever seen.

The monks don’t like to be interrupted in their reveries on God, so we were careful to fly a good distance away, and never to overfly the monasteries.  We didn’t need to.  The scenery was captivating in every direction.  Wow.  I was literally shaking with excitement as my drone touched down safely after the first flight.

The next day we were back before dawn.  This time, the only people around.  Perfect conditions for flying.  We completed a perfect Hyperlapse – the old fashioned way using timed photos every two seconds, and tap-fly set at 2m / second.  150 images, which will turn into 5 seconds of film, takes five minutes during which the drone covers a distance of 600m.  So keen eyes are required to keep it in line of sight.  We also got some great reveals, some stunning shots of the valley, and much else besides.  Over the next 24 hours we flew and flew and flew at Meteora.  Some of the most beautiful flights, and certainly some of the most technically challenging, of my drone life.

By Monday night, I knew with absolute certainty that this is a place we must bring PhantomFlightSchool clients to in 2019.  It is a magical, spiritual, special place.  Over the last five hundred years, I guess it has seen most things.  It felt to me that it welcomed our drones as just one more curiosity from the strange modern world the monks turn their backs on when they climb the hundreds of steps (still, steps beat baskets and ropes I’d say) and retreat to their monasteries to meditate for the rest of their lives.

A trip to this part of Greece is so different from visiting the Greece of Athens and the Parthenon, or the lovely Greek islands.  We adore Corfu too – which is why we are going back in April 2019 for a week on a 48ft yacht with drones, thanks to our great friends at No Stress Yachting.  But this is the real Greece.  And with George Blonsky as our guide, we can unlock it.  Every day feels like an adventure.  Unexpected scenes of astonishing beauty at every turn.  Amazing generosity and kindness from everyone we meet.  Stray Anatolian sheepdogs asleep in the middle of the road – the roads around here don’t see much traffic.  Delicious, authentic, locally sourced food in the restaurants.  With great options for meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans.  On Tuesday we visited the stunning, unique, deserted, post-Byzantine Church “Church of the Holy Cross” high in the mountains North of Meteora.  More amazing drone flights.  More amazing drone footage.

On Wednesday, our last day, we check out of our hotel, and take our bags to the car.  Then head back to reception for hand-shakes and hugs with the hotel staff.  It really is that kind of place.  I am sad to be leaving, but ecstatic to have experienced this special place.  We take a detour on the way back to the airport, to visit Metsovo, a wonderful mountain-top village with narrow cobbled streets, well kept micro-gardens, and a bustling town square.  Our destination is not the village itself, but the spectacular lake beyond it.  The Autumn colours in the forests around the lake are jaw-droppingly spectacular.  The scenery achingly beautiful.

On this trip, for reasons of portability, I took just my Mavic Air drone.  It is fair to say I had my fair share of adventures in the sky.  I love the Pano function.  I love the portability.  And I was chuffed to figure out how to do a Hyperlapse without a Mavic 2.  But trying to fly long-distances, I regularly lost contact with the Air completely.  Which is a little nerve-wracking.  Flight time is short.  Generally fifteen minutes or less.  It was not always happy with the amount of wind we encountered.  Although in size it is unobtrusive, boy is it a noisy drone.  The non-existent ground clearance meant I had to choose take off and landing spots with care.  And the lack of options to adjust camera settings, because of the fixed aperture, and the difficulty with adjusting EV on the fly, was frustrating from time to time.  All the same, she behaved heroically throughout, and has returned home with me in mint condition.

DJI M600 First Flight this weekend at our Maidstone Flying Site

After careful consideration this client chose PhantomFlightSchool to supply their shiny new DJI M600 drone.  They chose PFS because of the full package we offer when we sell a drone like this one: support with the build; full training; and a half-day of practical flying included in the price.

The “big beast” of the DJI line-up weighs well over 7kgs, and is capable of lifting a 3kg payload.  This drone was chosen by the client because it has rotor / motor / propeller redundancy, as well as battery redundancy, which was considered essential for a long-term project filming and recording development on a tall skyscraper construction site in a congested area.

Here is  brief clip of the M600’s maiden flight, at our Maidstone, Kent, Flying Location this weekend.

M600 launch

French Pyrenees Trip by our Trip Leader, Simon Smith

Overhead drone image of ancient bridge over river

Drone Holiday in the French Pyrenees, May 2018

After about an hour’s drive from Toulouse Airport we arrived at Giles & Louise Neville’s gites. The location is truly superb with views across miles of open countryside to the Pyrenees in the “middle distance”. As the light changes through the day, so the atmosphere changes, making every view different!

Giles and Louise (and their dog “Daco”) make everybody really welcome and the accommodation is exceptionally clean, comfortable, spacious and full of character.

The first afternoon was spent flying from the gites’ garden getting a feel for everybody’s level of ability and ensuring that we all understood a few basic rules of safety and separation. Everybody enjoyed flying in new surroundings and we very quickly established a great “Group Dynamic” with a bit of good natured banter and lots of exchange of wisdom.

Louise takes great pleasure in creating a wide variety of meals for us and Giles is a very good host, so it was no surprise that our first evening meal extended over a thoroughly pleasant couple of hours followed by a relaxing hour or so with a couple of beers before bed.

There followed 4 days where we adopted the format of the morning in one location, lunch and then another location…

Everything from the biggest road through a natural cave/tunnel in Europe to ruined castles on top of spectacular rocky outcrops, waterfalls crashing down mountainsides, tranquil lakes in serene surroundings, a medieval bridge in a hidden gorge and barns high enough in the mountains to be above the early morning clouds… A veritable plethora of truly photogenic opportunities, and all with plenty of alternative viewpoints and enough space to permit 2 drones to fly safely at the same time!

After the first day’s activity we established something of a routine where we could all gather to admire and critique each other’s video and stills on a large screen TV before dinner. I certainly felt that we all benefited from seeing different ways of viewing the same subject!

And it was very interesting to get Giles’ take on what we had produced since he is a very competent photographer in his own right and he has copious experience of guiding many residential land-based Photography Holidays that he accommodates in Manzac.

I think that it’s fair to say that everybody enjoyed our week there and we all left wanting more!

 

 

Lithuania – the next destination for PFS Drone Holidays?

I landed at Vilnius airport at around 9pm on Boxing Day.  The first thing to greet me was a drone photograph, even before I got to Passport Control.  With a banner proclaiming how the photographer had captured the beauty of Lithuania from the air.  There were more, dozens more drone photos, all around the airport.  Lithuania – drone friendly!  As I had been led to expect.

I left the clean, modern, brightly lit terminal building, and climbed into a taxi.  It was cold, with signs that it had been snowing recently.  Everything monotone shades of brown, grey and black.  The fifteen-minute drive into town took less than 10.  My driver clutching the wheel like a maniac, foot to the floor, leaning forwards urgently with his eyes darting left and right at every junction, as if worried there might be someone going even faster jumping the lights in the other direction.  As we reached town, his speed didn’t change.  We did 110 down the Vilnius equivalent of Bond Street.  Rear windows so blacked out I could hardly see out.  Certainly, no-one could see in.  Interesting.

I checked into the Novotel, a smartly redecorated Soviet era building on the main shopping street in Vilnius.  A good choice.  Later, I took a stroll into the beautiful Old Town at the heart of the city.  The largest well-preserved medieval town in Europe.  From the 12th to the 14th century, Lithuania covered an area larger than France, and was one of the wealthiest states in Europe.  Today’s Lithuania is more than 90% smaller, with roughly the same 3m population of the much larger 14th Century version.

I found quaint dimly-lit cobbled streets, upmarket artisan shops in magnificent old buildings, and very few people around.  After a few wrong turns, I arrived at my target, “Lokys” or “The Bear”.  One of the oldest and best-known restaurants in Vilnius.  I asked my waiter, charming and equipped with perfect English “Quail or Wild Boar?”.  “Wild Boar” he answered without hesitation.  It was excellent advice.  With a texture similar to fillet steak, and with more flavour, it was the most delicious (perhaps also the only) Wild Boar I have ever tasted.  The price not much different from what you might expect to pay for an equivalent meal in the UK.

There are many fine buildings in the city.  All of the streets are cobbled.  It is extremely clean.  Service everywhere was faultless.  Almost everyone speaks perfect English.  The food is excellent.  There was a truly incredible free 3D light show projected onto the wall of the Cathedral every evening that drew a crowd of thousands.

A lunch of roast duck breast on my final day was once again the best I have tasted, and I have tasted rather more duck than I have Wild Boar.

I was a little surprised not to see anyone flying a drone in any of the large parks that dot the city.  But getting out into the countryside is quick and easy.  A search on Shutterstock for drone images of Lithuania quickly establishes that there are plenty of beautiful places people are flying drones here.

So, will we be adding Lithuania to the list of destinations for our unique drone holidays?  In a word, sadly, no.

Our Full Holiday Programme for 2018

Why?  Because this is a tough place.  It was part of the Soviet Union from 1940 until 1991.  The large ex-KGB building, standing by the river, where the modern authorities have etched the names of those that were tortured and murdered there in the bad times onto the stone walls, is a reminder of that.

I was in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in November following two successful PfCO Courses in the sunshine there.  I commented to my partner on how happy everyone appeared.  The children in the parks. The old people in the parks.  Everyone in the parks!  We speculated that living with a year-round temperature that only varies between 700 and 800 (in old money), where everything you need to eat literally grows on trees, and where the last war was more than 250 years ago, is probably a good start when it comes to making a nation happy.

Lithuania has not been so lucky. Its experience in World War II was appalling, invaded first by the Nazis, and then by the Russians.  The people don’t smile.  It feels like a place where if you want something, you take it.  And it will be taken from you in turn unless you are strong.  They drive extraordinarily aggressively.  The more expensive the car, the more aggressive the driver.  No-one crosses against red, even when there is no car in sight.  Because, I learned from my hotel, the Police are likely to use it as an opportunity to line their own pocket, by fining you for jay-walking.  The really strange one was people’s habit of staring straight at you, across a bar, a restaurant, a street, even out of a shop or office window, if they felt challenged.  Unnerving.  And for some reason they seem to feel challenged a lot.

If we were to take our drones to Lithuania, I would not be confident that they would not be stolen at night, forcibly removed from us in broad daylight, or impounded by a wily Policeman in search of a fine to put food on the table for his family.

Soviet Era Furniture at the Novotel – Vilnius

I have always wanted to visit the Baltic States, and my trip to Vilnius certainly did not disappoint.  I found it fascinating from start to finish.  I would certainly recommend it as a short City-Break destination.  But we won’t be adding it to the list of places we take people on a Drone Holiday.

Much as we like to say Yes, sometimes you need to know when to say No.

Our Full Holiday Programme for 2018

If this Drone was a Dog, which Dog would it be?

2017 has seen an explosion in the range of drones produced by DJI, and the arrival of products worthy of consideration from Parrot and Yuneec as well.  Not so Go Pro!  The Karma is a disaster.  Trying to choose the right drone for you can be like finding your way through a minefield.  Portability (Mavic) or camera quality (P4 Pro)?  iPad or built in monitor (the P4 Pro + range)?  Black (Obsidian) or White?  And so it goes on.

Don’t leave it to chance, or trust the chap in Jessops to know what he is talking about.  Call the experts at PhantomFlightSchool and we will help you to choose the right drone for you.  01244 893 872.

Line up for our Unique Drone Holidays in 2018 Confirmed

We are passionate about helping our Drone Holiday clients have an incredible drone experience.  The line-up for our Unique Drone Holidays for 2018 is now confirmed, with holidays to Spain, the French Pyrenees, Iceland, Corfu, the USA, and even the UK.   Holidays range from 3 – 7 days, and from £995 – £2,995.  Holidays in the UK, Spain and the USA are aimed at beginners and intermediates.  Those to Iceland, the French Pyrenees, and Corfu, are targeted at strong intermediates and experts.  Our Drone Holiday season now runs from April to October.  We took more than double the number of clients on holiday in 2017 than we did in 2016.  And are proud that we secured 100% five-star ratings for the second year running.  CLICK HERE to see all our Reviews.  Still, a Drone Holiday with PhantomFlightSchool remains exclusive – we have just 60 places available in our 2018 portfolio.  Call to book before 15 January to secure your holiday at 2017 prices. CLICK HERE to read more.

The Definitive Survey of UK Drone Users – by PhantomFlightSchool and DRONE Magazine, September 2017

We are excited to confirm that with 1,126 completed surveys received, this is by far the largest survey of UK Drone Users ever conducted.

Thank you to all of you who took part.  Thank you for taking the time to do so, and thank you for the honesty with which you answered our questions.

 Click HERE to see the Full Article about the Survey in DRONE Magazine

Click HERE to see the detailed answers to every question we asked on Survey Monkey

Survey Highlights

We ran the Survey in partnership with DRONE Magazine, and an eight page article on the results is the main feature in their October edition (out now). You can see the full results of our Survey HERE

Stand outs from the survey for us include that, unsurprisingly, alongside wanting to take photos and video, the main reason people buy a drone is to have fun. More worrying is that nearly half of you have had a crash or a near miss, and that the main reason people crash (50%!) is human error.

Having the most fun with your drone

We exist to make sure you have the most fun possible with your drone, as well as helping you to capture the best photographs and video you can, whilst making sure the number of landings equals the number of take-offs, every time.

We all know that to get good at tennis, you need tennis lessons. To learn French, you need French lessons.  Whatever standard your flying is now, we guarantee that a drone flying lesson will ensure you have more fun with your drone, take better pictures and video with your drone, and minimise the risk of crashing your drone.

The most exciting flying requires more skills. Skills we can help you to learn, quickly and safely.

Click HERE to use Voucher Code “survey10” to get 10% off a one, two or three hour lesson.  Order must be placed by 15 October 2017, lesson to be taken before end 2017.