About a year ago, we bought our first drone – a DJI Phantom 3 Pro, to be precise – but after playing with it in the garden, it was clear that something else needed to happen. Just as I wouldn’t get into a car without the standard 30h (theory) + 30h (practical) lessons, we took the same approach to drone flying. Because it really isn’t as easy as people make it out to be.
A quick internet search revealed the Phantom Flight School which seemed to address all of our needs – multiple locations across the UK (initially, we even had lessons in Henley on Thames, which was brilliant), advice and support.
But our love affair with the Phantom was short-lived – we hated carrying it around (not so handy to go to the beach with a suitcase!!) and even though I tried to really use it on trips – you can see some examples in Bali, Greece and Mallorca, I knew something had to change.
So when Alan (who runs the school), sent us an email about the new DJI Mavic Pro, which weighs under 1kg and comes in very very compact packaging, I knew it was the drone for us. But we had to get rid of the old one…. absolutely no problem: the Phantom Flight School took it back as a part exchange and we purchased our new one from them.
And why? Because when you do, you get a free flight lesson – which was handy for us as we were a bit apprehensive to try the Mavic before our trip to Abu Dhabi, and it was night and day for us.
A few weeks ago, I discovered that the school was running actual drone flying holidays (which are mostly fully booked, with very few spaces remaining), I jumped at the chance when a cancellation occurred. It meant cancelling a conference, but I knew I wouldn’t get 5 days of drone flying lessons any other time. And it was 100% worth it.
Here is a quick recap video of the whole 5 days – and if you are interested, there are a few more from each individual flight below. They have music, but it isn’t important, so feel free to watch without sound if you are in a place where you shouldn’t have music on!
I arrived on the first day (but much later than the core group) and I didn’t fancy the drive up, so I pre-organised a private transfer with Hoppa to take me there. Worth noting that all we had was a Google Maps pin and it worked a treat. My husband joined us a day later and hired a car at the airport, which we kept for the remainder of our stay.
On Thursday, my first full day, we spent a morning at the villa having some theory lessons – from legislation, to pre-flight checks and understanding the DJI Go App. Everyone had some experience – but we all wanted to learn. The focus of the 5 days was to a) make us excellent pilots, so that we can then b) focus on the output which is, of course, what I am interested in: the photographs and the videos.
Here is how my first flight went – we went up to the mountains, not too far from the villa and needless to say, Simon and I filmed everything except for the bits where I appear (Alan did that for me with my then drone).
On the second day, we flew over a farmhouse ruin during the morning, returned to the villa and checked our footage.. and then went back in the afternoon to correct things. What did we do wrong? What did we miss?
I was gutted – and so annoyed that ‘it was the girl’ who had this accident. A tad embarrassed too, but I did not let that ruin our evening at a beautiful local restaurant with the most stunning views. All the adrenaline during the day called for an early night and give me some time to mentally prepare to fly the following day… over the sea.
A special thank you to Alan, who let me hire a spare DJI Mavic Pro drone he had – knowing it wasn’t mine made me even more nervous and I wasn’t 100% confident the next morning as we were flying over what was one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline I have ever seen in Spain… and one I had no idea existed so close to Malaga (you know I visit the area regularly, be that Marbella or my beloved Finca Cortesin)
We had a barbecue at the villa that night (my last one, but the rest of the group still had another day and night ahead) and we were all in bed before 10.45pm! It is tiring – a lot of concentration is required and sleep is vital!
On our last morning, we flew over Lake Vinuela, on the way towards the coast – the weather wasn’t so nice and I used the wrong filter on the drone, but hey, we are still beginners. Lots and lots to learn!
I thought the course was very well organised and I cannot recommend it enough. Accommodation isn’t luxury (I know I am picky), but it was absolutely fine (all ensuite, of course) and the food was also good. I was the only woman on the course, and I would like to think I did not kill the mood for the boys. Everyone was a tad older than me and I really enjoyed everyone’s company – some great stories we shared, everyone wanted to help the others and we had a lot of fun.
I am a normal customer of the Phantom Flying School – it is where I have all my lessons (and will continue to do so), bought my drone, accessories and get all my advice from. If you are based in the UK, I cannot recommend them enough (and for the holidays, of course anyone can join!).
Disclaimer and fact box: on this occasion, and due to a last minute cancellation, we were guests of the Phantom Flight School for this holiday. Obviously we covered all travel costs. A 5-night drone flying course in Spain costs £1,195 including all tuition, accommodation, half board and transfers – I told them they have to increase the price as it is worth a lot more.
You can also buy your drone directly from DJI.
My transfer with Hoppa took 1 hour from Malaga airport and cost £67 one-way.