Category Archives: Holidays

Ten things you may not know, but should, about drone regulations

PhantomFlightSchool is here to help you every step of the way with your drone adventure

Drone Registration around the World

  1. The UK Registration process confirms two important points which are very good news for us drone pilots:
    1. It makes clear that the CAA agree with our long-held understanding that it is perfectly legal to take-off and land on any public footpath or bridleway, so long as there isn’t a byelaw in place that “trumps” this basic right. The best example of this byelaw point is the National Trust, who have the power to pass byelaws, and have done so to prevent taking off and landing anywhere on National Trust owned land.  But note they can’t stop you flying your drone over their land, any more than anyone can stop you flying your drone over their land – the air above our heads belongs to all of us
    2. It also makes clear that the 50metre rule applies by “creating a dome” with a 50metre radius over anyone or anything that is not under your control.  So by flying at a height of 50metre plus the height of the thing you are overflying, you can fly over other people, over roads, over houses and other buildings
  2. Drone registration was first proposed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in June 2017, and was adopted by the European Parliament in June 2019. It is one part of a large body of new EU drone regulations that will take effect from 1 July 2020 (see points 7 to 10 below).  The CAA is committed to following EASA recommendations whether the UK stays in the EU or not.  Hence the introduction of drone registration in the UK
  3. If you want to fly your drone in France, you must register your drone under the French drone registration scheme. Good news, the test can be done in English, the rules in France are very similar to those in the UK, and registering to fly in France is free.
  4. From June 2020, if you want to fly your drone anywhere in the EU, you will be obliged to register your drone in an EU country. The good news is that once you are registered in one EU country, you are clear for take-off in all EU countries
  5. If you want to fly in the USA, you will need to pay a $5 fee and register your drone with the FAA: https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/register_drone/
  6. If you want to fly in Canada as a foreign national, you need to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate from Transport Canada.  To obtain this, you need to prove your competence, which in practice means you must hold a UK PfCO, or you will need to complete the Canadian online 3 hour Basic Course.  Email us if you would like more information, and our help in obtaining permission to fly in Canada

Drone Identification

  1. From 1 July 2020, every new drone weighing more than 250gms sold in the EU will have to be fitted with:
    1. A system for transmitting the location of the drone, and of the drone pilot, in such a way that anyone who is interested can see this information
    2. A transponder that means it is clearly visible to manned aircraft
    3. Note that this only applies to new drones being sold. You will have until June 2022 to retrofit such a device to your existing drones.  These devices are expected to be very lightweight (less than 10gms) and relatively affordable (less than £20)
  2. This is great news for all of us who want to enjoy flying and photographing with our drones, as it will greatly reassure the general public to know that the police can track the location of any drone and drone pilot, and it is bound to lead to a significant reduction in people flying drones where they shouldn’t, as they will know that they are much more likely to get caught. Especially as more and more police forces around the country (we are up to twelve and counting) recruit full-time “Drone Enforcers” to take action against pilots flying their drone illegally

Replacing the PfCO

  1. Again on 1 July 2020, across the EU and in the UK, the Permission for Commercial Operations that you must obtain in order to charge money for your drone work, will end. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) says that there is no difference in the riskiness of a commercial flight, compared with a recreational flight.  So from 1 July 2020, flights will instead be rated as “safe” or “dangerous”.  Safe flights, whether commercial or recreational, will be regulated in a similar way to recreational flights at the moment.  In order to undertake a dangerous flight, and by dangerous EASA means “anywhere near people or property”, you will need to prove your competence to undertake such a flight.  We expect the “proof of competence” requirements to be very similar to the current hoops you must jump through to get your PfCO.  Troublingly for those of us who want or need to fly close to people and buildings, EASA have not yet said what they mean by “anywhere near”.  So we expect there to be something of a hiatus, come July 2020, while the whole thing gets sorted out
  2. Which is why there has never been a better time to get your PfCO. Because those of us who have our PfCO can continue to fly under PfCO Rules until June 2022.  So getting your PfCO now means that you will be able to continue to fly to within 50metres of anything and anybody not under your control all the way through to the end of June 2022.  We have just 60 places available on our PfCO Courses running from February to June 2020, at a price of just £895 for everything you need to immediately apply for your PfCO from the CAA.

PFS Drone Photography Competition 2019

Drone Photo Awards

 

Drone Photography Competition 2019 Entry Form

  • Please select from the following categories
  • Accepted file types: jpg.
    Upload your photograph, as a JPEG, at the highest resolution available, max file size 20Mb per image. Each image must be uploaded separately. You may upload up to a maximum of ten images in total
  • Tell us where you took this photograph

PhantomFlightSchool Drone Photography Competition 2019 Terms and Conditions

  1. Prizes:
    • First Prize is a £1,000 Four Day Drone Photography Masterclass. Including: Accommodation, Meals, and Expert Tuition from one of Britain’s Leading Drone Photographers.  In Skye, the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, or the Jurassic Coast.  Any time in 2020.  Or a £1,000 Voucher to spend on an Overseas Drone Experience or four-day PfCO Course.  It’s your choice.
    • Second Prize is a £600 Vouchers to spend on a Drone Photography Masterclass, Overseas Drone Experience, or PfCO course, any time in 2020
    • Third Prize is a £400 Voucher to spend on a Drone Photography Masterclass, Overseas Drone Experience, or PfCO course, any time in 2020
  2. Photos can be submitted in the following categories:
    • Landscape and Seascape
    • Travel and Overseas
    • Weddings and People
    • Cities and the Built Environment
    • Abstract / Open
  3. You may enter a maximum of ten images, across all categories.  You may enter images in any number of categories, up to a maximum of ten images in total
  4. Please submit your images as JPEGs only, at the highest resolution you have available, up to a maximum of 20Mbs per image
  5. All entries must be received by midnight on Sunday 10 November 2019. Images submitted after this date will not be eligible for an Award. PhantomFlightSchool reserves the right to extend the entry period at any time
  6. Winners will be announced at The PhantomFlightSchool Awards Dinner at Crewe Hall on Saturday 16th November 2019
  7. Images must be submitted to PhantomFlightSchool using the Form in our “Drone Photo Awards” blog. Any other form of submission will not be accepted
  8. When submitting an entry you must include all of the following information:
    • Where the image was taken
    • Which category you are entering the image in
  9. A Winner and a Runner Up will be chosen in each Category. In addition, there will be three overall prizes, for the three best images across all categories (see point 1 for details of overall prizes)
  10. The Small Print
    1. Prizes are as stated only, and no cash alternatives will be given
    2. PhantomFlightSchool retains the right to alter or withdraw prizes should circumstances change beyond its control
    3. Judging will be carried out by a panel of PhantomFlightSchool’s multi-award winning photographers. The judges’ decisions will be final and no correspondence will be entered into
    4. By submitting an image in this Competition, you confirm that you are the copyright holder of the image and that it is your original work. Anyone found to have entered an image that is not their original work will be disqualified
    5. Entrants retain copyright over all photographs submitted. By entering a photo in the Competition you agree that your submission may be used by PhantomFlightSchool for promotional purposes
    6. Entry is open to everyone: recreational drone pilots just starting out; pro photographers who fly drones; professional drone pilots who take photographs, and everyone in between. There is no upper or lower age limit for Competition entrants
    7. This year, only photos will be considered for an Award. No videos will be accepted.  Videos will be accepted for consideration in 2020
    8. There is no fee to enter the Competition and you do not have to attend the Awards Dinner at Crewe Hall on 16 November to enter an image for an Award
    9. Images entered must have been taken in accordance with the relevant country’s drone legislation
    10. It is the entrant’s responsibility to ensure that any image submitted does not breech the General Data Protection Regulation, nor any other relevant laws or legislation
    11. Participants entering images for a PhantomFlightSchool Award do so at their own risk and are solely responsible for their own health and safety
    12. PhantomFlightSchool is not responsible for any costs or expenses incurred by entrants in the process of creating and submitting their photographs
    13. PhantomFlightSchool reserves the right to disqualify entrants found to be breaking any of these terms and conditions
    14. By entering the Competition, all entrants are deemed to have accepted these rules
    15. PhantomFlightSchool reserves the right to modify these terms and conditions at any time
    16. PhantomFlightSchool reserves the right to suspend or cancel the Competition at any time.

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

Our Cambridge Pilot, Tom Jacobs, talks about Winter Filming in the Lake District

With a week-long filming assignment on the agenda, the day for packing all of the gear, and even collecting a brand new Mavic 2 Pro on the journey up, had arrived. Lakeland in winter requires all of the extra gear one would expect to need for winter mountaineering, which adds a lot of weight to filming in the mountains, so a checklist was needed (Flight School pilots love a checklist!).

With my van loaded, it was time to head off and after a clear journey up to Threlkeld, I arrived at my accommodation and immediately set-to charging batteries and studying OS maps getting set for the week ahead. The anticipated heavy snow arrived and I found myself preparing for a ‘Dawn Raid’ the next morning.

Up at 5am I drove a very cautious journey to the eastern shores of Ullswater in the dark, with plenty of sheet ice across the approach road to keep me focused. It took some steady steps on frozen ground to get to the top of the fell in the dawn light and it was cold and quite windy, but the views were amazing. As the sun rose above the far eastern fells and the shadows sank lower into the valley, the golden light crept onto Helvellyn, lighting up the snow-clad giant in all its glory.

I carried out a few flights to capture this distant scene with Ullswater looking dark and alluring in the foreground. The next day was a big one, filming Lakeland skiers in the fresh snow. I drove to Glenridding village and due to the depth of snow and the icy conditions on the quarry road, we had to park in the village and walk all the way to the hostel before starting the ascent to the ski slopes. Once the initial zig-zag quarry route had been navigated through, it was onto the Chimney Ridge route up to the cabins and ski lift.

The snow was deeper than knee height in places making the going slower than usual. The conditions were stunning but as we approached the lifts, low clouds were pouring over the mountain-side, clinging to the ski slopes. As you can imagine, it was pretty cold, so, having met with the ski club members to discuss the filming plans, I headed off to find a suitable spot to launch from.

 

Suffice to say, when you have painful numb fingers, sub-zero degree temperatures and swirling icy winds, it makes for testing conditions… far from ideal! Picking my moments carefully, anticipating windows in the fast-moving low cloud, I carried out 3 batteries worth of flights, capturing some high level film of the skiers having fun on the slopes, and the conditions allowed for some dramatic footage of the fell-side and surrounding mountain ranges too.

The last full day of the trip was another dawn raid with the promise of some cracking morning light on Helvellyn. After another steady drive in the dark to Patterdale, we bundled out of the van, grabbed our gear and set off up towards Striding Edge. As before, the icy paths and deep snow made the going slow and I had to carry out a mid-approach “hand launch and catch” flight on a steep  mountain slope in order to capture the golden dawn light on the summit and Striding Edge.

We eventually reached our filming spot and the views were magnificent. The added bonus was a cloud inversion in the valley which covered Ullswater like a blanket. With blue sky and snow-capped mountains all around, I was quite literally in heaven!

I flew two batteries, capturing some wonderful scenes of Helvellyn, but trying to keep powder snow away from my equipment was quite a task, not helped by a passing walker’s dog charging over my kit and launch pad!

On the journey home I reflected on my week in the snow-covered fells, the ‘at the limit’ conditions I found myself flying in, and the rewards for managing those conditions to achieve the results I was after. However, for me, above all, being immersed in these breathtaking moments on the fells is the pinnacle of being alive…. that and being astride a motorbike, riding a curvy road through Luxembourg…. but each to their own of course!

Tom Jacobs

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

 

The Photography Show

The Photography Show logo

 

 

SPECIAL OFFERS for The Photography Show 16 – 19 March

We hope to see you at the Photography Show this weekend.  It’s at the NEC, and we are on Stand K131.  We have some very special offers for people visiting us at the Show.

Then we thought, that’s great for all the new people we expect to meet at the Show.  But what about our loyal customers who can’t get there.  Shouldn’t you get the same great Offers?  Of course you should!

So, even if you are not able to attend The Photography Show we are offering the following discounts to everyone between 16th – 19th March 2019.

FREE Workshop worth £150 when you book a drone flying holiday!

Reserve your place on one of our drone flying & photography holidays and choose to attend one of our many workshops for free. For more information on our 2019 holiday programme click here.  We’ll send you a Code to claim your free Workshop as soon as you reserve a place on one of our holidays.  £300 deposit is all we require to reserve your place.

FREE 2 hour lesson worth £200 when you book your PfCO course!

Get your PfCO with the UKs longest established and most popular Practical Drone Training Organisation. 3 day Course, every month in Chester and Maidstone for more information click here.  We’ll send you a Code to claim your free Lesson worth £200 as soon as you reserve a place on one of our PfCO Courses.  £300 deposit is all we require to reserve your place.

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

DISCOUNT CODE: Photoshow20

Protect Your Investment, Learn to Fly with the Experts. Get More Out of Your Flying. For more information or to book a Lesson click here.

 

Drone Flying in France

Drone Flying in France for “Leisure Users”

The rules have now changed in France.

a)   The drone must be registered with “DGAC”, the French equivalent of the CAA

b)   The drone pilot must have appropriate Public Liability Insurance in place

c)   For anything over 800g (any DJI drone heavier than a Mavic Pro Platinum!) the drone pilot must successfully complete an online course and test

d)   The drone must be labelled so that its registration number can be read with the naked eye from 30cm.

Evidence of items “a” & “c” must be carried at all times when flying a drone

(This can be in hard copy or in an electronic format and must be produced if requested by “the authorities”)

In order to comply with these requirements proceed as follows:

Go to https://alphatango.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/login.jsp

Click the Union Jack to change the language to “English”

Click “CREATE YOUR ACCOUNT”

Select “individual / sole trader”, fill-in all the required details and follow all prompts

You will receive an email containing a link to click in order to validate your account

Once you have done this you will be able to register your drone(s):

You will receive an email confirmation for each drone registered, with a Certificate of Registration attached.

Affix a suitable (“Dymo” or similar) label to your drone showing its registration number.

Having registered your aircraft, in order to fly a drone >800g, you must now proceed as follows:Click “ACCESS TO DGAC TRAINING”

 

Complete the “I’m learning” module

Practice in the “I’m training” module

Complete the “I take my online test” module

(You are required to score 100% in order to pass, so be ready for a few retakes and be aware that the questions remain the same but the multi-choice answers move around!)

Once you achieve 100% you can download your certificate by clicking on “télécharger”

Finally, be sure that you have appropriate PL Insurance in place.

Membership of the British Model Flying Association (bmfa.org) @ £38 per annum gives you £25M worldwide PL cover, although you may already be covered by your existing insurance… You must check, as this is your legal responsibility.

Drone Flying Holiday Programme 2019

PhantomFlightSchool are the experts in drone holidays. Now in our fourth year, we are delighted to have received only 5***** reviews from everyone who has come on a drone holiday with us. More than 75% of clients have repeat booked.

In 2018 we ran six sold-out drone holidays to Spain, to the French Pyrenees, and to Corfu.

In 2019, we are retunring to all our favourite places, and adding holidays to the Monasteries of Meteora in Greece, and in the UK we have Drone Photography and Videography Masterclasses in the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and on the Dorset Coast.

New for 2019!

Coming on a drone flying holiday with us gives you the opportunity to fly with like-minded drone enthusiasts, in places few people could find or would feel comfortable flying on their own. We have meticulously researched every destination, and every flying location, established good relations with the local authorities, and found the best places to visit, to sleep, and to eat.

  • In Spain, we fly over enormous landscapes, steep valleys, clifftops overlooking the sea, and stunning cobalt blue lakes.
  • In France, we up the ante somewhat, with stunning mountain locations and ruined castles offering more challenging but very rewarding photo opportunities.
  • Corfu presents a totally different palette of marine locations. This one is for the experts, as we will be flying every day from the back of a chartered 48ft luxury yacht. Hand launching and hand catching required.
  • While Greece is pretty much a byword for amazing spectacles!
  • In the UK, we’ve teamed up with two Award Winning Photographers, to really help you improve your drone photography and videography.

And you are always flying under the expert gaze of one of our hugely experienced PfCO qualified drone pilots, who is there to support and guide you every time you take off.

OUR FULL HOLIDAY PROGRAMME FOR 2019

Flying and filming together, comparing flight plans, camera settings, and shooting angles and directions, everyone learns from each other. Whatever your standard when you join one of our trips, you will go home with knowledge and expertise that will enhance all of your future drone flying and filming.

Join us for the trip of a lifetime in 2019!

For more information on any of our drone flying holidays call us on 01244 893 872 or send us a message.

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.

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!