It is no secret that Iceland is one of the most photographed countries in the world. With a plethora of majestic natural wonders and vivid backdrops, it comes as no surprise, that photographers from all around the world come to capture that picture-perfect shot. The increased use of drones has enabled the ordinary person to take breath-taking imagery from the touch of a button or two, however, the widespread use of these devices also comes with certain rules.
Want to learn more about your legal requirements regarding drone usage in Iceland? Where you can and cannot fly a drone and your responsibilities as an owner of an unmanned aerial vehicle? If so, then read on.
The Do's and Don'ts of 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 behaviour.
Flying a Drone in Iceland’s National Parks
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, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss to name a few . For commercial drone photography, you can apply for an exemption permit to some of the restrictions mentioned above.
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 in Prohibited areas?
Yes, you can. Provided your footage is to be used for commercial purposes. You can apply for a special permit, where you can specify your planned date/s of shooting, the reason why you’d need a permit and so on. 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 Park, Þingvellir 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.
Park rangers should always be notified before flying a drone in restricted areas after being granted permission to do so.
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.
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!
Are you looking for more tips around just general safety and responsibility whilst in Iceland? Head on over here, then.
If you’re planning on taking your drone to Iceland, definitely do so! Although certain areas like Vatnajökull, National Park, and Þingvellir National Park prohibit the use of drones in the area, there are plenty more natural attractions where you can freely fly your drone and capture amazing footage!