Flying Drones in Iceland

Flying a Drone in Iceland – A Complete Guide

Nordical Travel, Last updated: June 30, 2021

As the recent eruption on Fagradalsfjall has proven, drones are capable of capturing absolutely incredible shots. Even before the eruption, Iceland was a feast for drone pilots who would come from all over the world looking for stunning content for their Instagram feed, and they would not leave disappointed. You might be planning to do the same? Honestly, who could blame you? So, you are probably wondering what the rules are regarding safety and where you can fly freely? Well, look no further, here is a useful guide regarding flying a drone in Iceland.

a no drone zone sign in iceland

Which Areas are Safe for Flying a Drone in Iceland?

The great news is that, when it comes to flying a drone in Iceland, you may do so freely in most parts of the country. However, as with everywhere, there are certain rules are regulations concerning safe and legal drone use. So, it is best to be prepared. Here are the main rules to follow:

  • If you plan to fly for commercial purposes, then you need to register your drone. If it’s just for fun, then no need to worry!
  • Your drone must weigh no more than 3 kg in urban areas, and no more than 25 kg in rural areas
  • You are permitted to fly your drone no more than 120 meters from the ground. You cannot fly any closer than 2 km to the international airport, and no more than 1.5 km to any other airport in the country
  • Please ensure that you fly no closer than 150 meters to public and private buildings in rural areas, with express permission from the property owner
  • Also, please ensure you do not fly any closer than 150 meters to public buildings and 50 km to private buildings in urban areas without permission from the property owner
  • Never fly over crowds of people
  • Never disturb wildlife with your drone. Animals such as birds, horses, seals, reindeer, etc. are to be left to behave naturally. Drones can be frightening to them and can cause panicked and unnatural behavior

Drone flights in all national parks, protected areas, nature reserves, and monuments are not permitted. These areas include Vatnajökull National Park, Þingvellir National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park, Dyrhólaey, Látrabjarg, Hornstrandir, Geysir, Gullfoss, etc. For commercial drone photography, you can apply for an exemption permit to some of the restrictions mentioned above.

crystal blue icebergs floating on jokulsarlon glacier lagoon iceland

Flying a Drone in Iceland’s National Parks

The national parks of Iceland are off-limits for drone use, except in special circumstances. The same is also true for many protected areas of interest around the country. The reason for this is to protect fragile and sensitive nature, animal life, and for the safety and enjoyment of other people. For example, places such as Skógafoss waterfall, Dyrhólaey nature reserve, and Látrabjarg have a protected status because of nesting birds. The use of drones can disturb the birds and can lead to eggs or chicks being abandoned. This can then lead to a reduction in numbers. There are also many seal colonies around Iceland, and areas that seals simply like to visit, such as Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Drones can drive them away from these areas, and they may never return if they do not feel safe. Skógafoss is a very tempting place to film with your drone, and if you film from the left of the waterfall then this is perfectly fine, but once you encroach on the monument area then drones are not permitted.

Can I Get Special Permission for Flying a Drone in Iceland’s National Parks?

Yes, you can. Provided your footage is to be used for commercial purposes. You can apply for a special permit, where you can discuss your plans. Upon granting of a permit, you will receive expert guidance on where you can fly, at what time of day, etc. You can apply for a permit in Vatnajökull National ParkÞingvellir National Park and you can also apply to the Environment Agency of Iceland for permission to fly in Snæfellsjökull National Park and all other protected areas that require a permit. They also have lots of useful information about these areas that you should read before you fly.

Can I Fly my Drone in Reykjavík and Other Towns?

According to the regulations, flying in the city of Reykjavík and other towns is not permitted unless you have special permission. The reason for this is that flying too close to airports, as well as public and private property, is not permitted under Icelandic law. However, if you have a special commercial project in mind, you can apply for an exemption to the Icelandic Transport Authority.

rainbow over the icelandic capital reykjavik

A Few Things to Remember

Many of Iceland’s protected areas have not been uploaded to drone software, so just because the drone is able to take off does not mean that you should…:

  • Always observe no-drone signs
  • Make sure you have a clear plan and ensure that where you wish to fly is legal, safe, and with the necessary permits if necessary.
  • If you are flying just for fun, for example for Instagram, please ensure that you follow all rules concerning flying drones for non-commercial purposes.
  • If possible, always alert a local ranger that you are operating in the area. This is mostly out of courtesy. Please also ensure that you are not disturbing the experience for any other visitors.
  • Be a responsible drone pilot. Respect the rules, the surrounding people, and the nature you want to capture.
  • And above all else, have fun!

Psst! Are you looking for more tips around just general safety and responsibility whilst in Iceland? You do? We love you already. Head on over here, then.

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