Category Archives: News

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 August 2019

Ten Questions to ask when choosing a PfCO Course

Image of two drone pilots operating a drone

Posted 03 May 2019

 

Q: Is it for me?

A: We only think you should think about doing a PfCO Course if you are using, or plan to use, a drone for commercial activities.  If you are involved in the built environment, we think drones will become as essential as a laptop and smartphone.  Likewise if you are a commercial photographer working outdoors.  So our answer is definitely that you should, and we firmly believe that when we deliver this course from 3iC (NQE No. 0116/1625) and enhance it with our very practical Ground School it makes it the best that you can get!  Otherwise, unless you plan to earn money with your drone, probably not.

If you want to learn more about drones, but won’t be flying commercially, you are better joining one of our one-day drone workshops, or coming on one of our holidays!

Q: Will I be ready to apply for my PfCO the day the Course finishes?

A: On this Course, the answer is yes.  Because we include not just Ground School, but also loads of practical drone flying training, your Operations Manual written with you, and your Flight Test during the Course.

Q: How much actual drone flying experience will my instructors have?

A: Your Course Instructors have completed thousands of drone flights, in the UK, and across Europe, in their roles as instructors, and flying drones commercially.  They pour all of the knowledge they have accumulated from these flights, successful, and sometimes not successful, into their teaching on the Course.

Q: How long does it take?

A: We have Courses running from 2.5 days to 5 days, weekends and weekdays.  The Short Course covers everything you need, and nothing else.  The longer Courses include more of the stuff that will help you in future, as well as the stuff you need to satisfy the CAA.

Q: What is the maximum student : instructor ratio?

A: With us, the maximum is 4 : 1.  We keep it low in order to give everyone the attention they deserve.

Q: What is the pass rate?

A: Everyone who has attended this Course over the last two years has completed it successfully.  Not always first time(!).  But it is our mission to do everything we can to support you to succeed.  There is no charge for retakes, no matter how many are required.

Q: What resources do I get before the Course begins?

A: You get a comprehensive set of eight online videos.  Each one runs about an hour, and covers one of the eight modules you are required to learn in order to pass the Theory Test element of the PfCO.  At the end of each video, there is a multiple-choice test, which will give you a good idea of how well you have mastered the subject.  You can view each video and complete each test as many times as you wish.

Q: I don’t currently own a drone.  Can you help me choose the right one?

A: Certainly.  We pride ourselves on our comprehensive knowledge of the full range of DJI drones.  And we will never try to sell you something more than you need.  Indeed “do you really need that?” is something clients choosing a drone hear from us a lot.

Q: What happens if it rains?

A: We keep a close eye on the forecast throughout the Course, and adapt the Course programme accordingly, to take advantage of good weather to get outside and go flying.  We also have a waterproof Matrice 200 drone available, as well as some baby Spark & Tello drones that fly well indoors, so that we can continue flying in bad weather.  To date, we have always been able to complete all of the Flight Tests during the Course.

Q: How can I get my flying skills to the required standard?

A: We are all about transparency.  So as soon as you sign up for this Course, we send you a copy of the Flight Test manoeuvres you will be required to complete to a high standard to pass the Flight Test.  Ahead of the Course, we recommend if possible that you come for a two-hour practical one-to-one drone flying lesson.  During this lesson, we can talk through what the test involves, determine your current standard of flying skills, and identify the areas you may need to work on ahead of the Flight Test.

Q: Do I have to write my own Operations Manual?

A: The good news is that, no you don’t, or at least not on your own!  We write the Operations Manual with you, based on a template that we constantly amend and adapt to meet the CAA’s requirements, and information that we ask you to give us: the name of your business; the type & serial number of your drone etc.  To comply with the CAA’s expectations, we do test you on the key information contained in your Operations Manual during the Course.  But this is a breeze compared with the painful, sometimes months long process of writing it totally by yourself.

Q: What happens after my Course?

A: We will send you the Certificates you need to submit to the CAA with your PfCO application immediately you complete the Course.  During the Course, we go through how to complete your application, and we offer a free vetting service to make sure your application is in order before you submit it if you have any concerns.

Q: Do you offer continuing support?

A: Very much so.  Everyone who completes their PfCO with us becomes a member of our Phantom Pro Club.  This provides you with:

  • A private FaceBook group for Pro Club Members
  • Discounts on our full range of Drone Workshops and Masterclasses
  • 50% off membership of the Guild of Photographers
  • Regular informal get-togethers for Pro Club members to share ideas, discuss new opportunities, and keep abreast of the latest developments in hardware, software, and legislation

Q: Anything else I should know?

A: Our enhanced 3iC PfCO Course costs from just £995 + VAT. Get free extra training worth £200 when you book your PfCO before the end of April. CLICK HERE to email us, or call us for details on 01244 893 872

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.

 

DJI Mavic 2 Pro – Simon says…

Whenever DJI launch a new product we can be sure that we will be told that this is the pinnacle of technology and it is such an improvement on what already exists that we must absolutely buy one!

As I get older, I know that it’s hard to believe(!) but I become more and more cynical… I’ve already got a Mavic Pro for portability and convenience and a Phantom 4 Pro for the best camera that you could expect to find on a “Prosumer” drone… So why on earth would I consider that I need to spend my money on this, simply to combine the best features of the two aforementioned drones?

Indeed, I resisted the temptation for several months while DJI struggled to satisfy the initial demand… I have to admit that I was even feeling a little smug that I didn’t need to join the queue of clamouring customers!

But then I was giving lessons to new Mavic 2 Pro owners and I started to see what all the fuss was about… Barely any larger and heavier than my trusty Mavic Pro but with a camera that wasn’t just as good as the P4Pro’s… It was significantly better! I believe that the relevant terms are “Colour Saturation” and “Dynamic Range”…

                     

Phantom 4 Pro                                                                                                               Mavic 2 Pro

In layman’s terms it, suddenly became possible to get really good results straight from the camera without the need to resort to LightRoom or PhotoShop in order to compensate for a wide range of exposure values… Dark foreground with fluffy white clouds in the distance and everything correctly exposed and pin-sharp… Absolutely awesome! And although DJI haven’t seen fit to publicise the function, one can even pan the camera without the need to rotate the drone…

Oh, and it’s nice to fly too! This must be the quietest drone that I have ever flown, and the landing leg configuration gives peace of mind to anybody who has been used to dealing with the Phantom’s need to avoid wind gusts when touching-down! Being able to select “Tripod” mode directly from the slide switch on the side of the controller is a nice touch too.

Lest this post be seen as an unduly biased positive review, there are a few things that have disappointed me with the Mavic 2 Pro:

  • I am not a fan of the shoulder bag that comes with the Fly More Kit… It’s awkward to get the drone in and out of and doesn’t afford as much protection as a hard case
  • The gimbal lock is a bit of a faff to fit
  • I am not 100% comfortable with the new “Waypoint” mode where waypoints are plotted on the map rather than by actually flying to them
  • I mourn the loss of the Phantom’s “Course Lock” intelligent flight mode

Other than these relatively minor gripes, am I happy with my purchase? The answer has to be a resounding “Yes”, but now I just have to come to terms with the fact that I should really advertise my original Mavic Pro for sale… Any offers? (Just one very careful owner!)

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.

2019 ANO Amendments – The new restrictions around airports explained

 

Image result for gatwick airport

On 20/02/19, the UK Government announced new amendments to The Air Navigation Order 2016. Here we explain the important changes that you need to know about.

2019 ANO Amendments:

1. It remains illegal to fly a drone of any mass within an aerodrome flight restriction zone without permission.

  • Aerodromes can take the form of airports, military airfields, or smaller aviation airfields. You can find a list of the UK’s aerodromes here.
  • Aerodromes have a ‘flight restriction zone’ around them to ensure the safety of aircraft. They are active at all times, and apply to drones of any mass.

2. With effect from 13/03/19, the flight restriction zone around airports and airfields will change.

The previous 1 km restriction from an airfield boundary will be replaced by the airfield’s existing Aerodrome Traffic Zone, and Runway Protection Zone. Together, these two zones make up the new flight restriction zone. You must not fly your drone within this zone unless you have permission.

a) Aerodrome Traffic Zone (ATZ): This is the red circle in the image below. Its epicentre is the midpoint of the longest runway, and has a radius of either 2 or 2.5 nautical miles depending on the length of the runway.

b) Runway Protection Zone: This zone starts from the end of each of the airfield’s runways, extending five kilometres by one kilometre zones*. It’s marked as the red rectangle in the image below.

Both zones extend upwards to a height of 2,000 feet above the airfield. To view a map which illustrates the flight restriction zones of individual airfield’s in the UK, visit the Drone Safe website.

An illustration of the new flight restriction zone around aerodromes, which will come into force on 13/03/19.

*At Heathrow airport, each runway protection zone is 1.5 km wide.

3. If you want to fly your drone within a flight restriction zone, you must have permission from either air traffic control, or the airport itself.

  • It’s up to air traffic control, or the airport itself, to give you permission to fly within an aerodrome flight restriction zone. You can find the contact details of air traffic control units in the UK here.
  • If you want to fly above 400 ft in a flight restriction zone, you need to get permission from the relevant air traffic control, as opposed to the CAA.

To find contact details for the different ATCs you can follow the links in the CAA’s official write-up of 2019 ANO amendments here

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!

Free with Awards Dinner
Out of stock
£150.00

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.