Iceland is a drone pilot’s paradise. With its rugged landscapes, stunning waterfalls, glaciers, and opportunities for aerial photography, it’s easy to understand why drone enthusiasts flock to this Nordic island country. However, Iceland does have laws and regulations for recreational drone use that must be followed. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know before taking your drone to Iceland, from permits and licenses to tips for capturing breathtaking aerial footage of Iceland’s natural wonders.
Rules and Regulations for Flying Drones in Iceland
While Iceland allows recreational drone use, there are specific rules and restrictions in place. It’s essential for drone pilots to understand and follow these regulations to avoid fines or having drones confiscated. Here are the key guidelines for flying drones legally in Iceland:
Maximum Height Limit
The maximum height for flying drones in Iceland is 400 feet (120 meters). This limit applies everywhere, from urban areas to national parks and wide-open spaces. Exceeding 400 feet risks collisions with low-flying aircraft or interfering with aviation operations.
To stay within regulations, use your drone’s altitude limit feature if available or keep a close eye on the height. Monitoring apps like Airdata UAV and Kittyhawk can also help track your drone’s altitude.
Designated Drone-Free Sites
While drones are permitted in most open areas, some highly sensitive sites prohibit drone use entirely. These include:
- Þingvellir National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Drones are banned to avoid collisions with aircraft and interference with aviation communication systems.
- Near airports – There is a no drone zone roughly 3.1 miles (5 km) around airports. This includes Iceland’s main Keflavik International Airport and regional airports around the country.
- Near emergency operations – Do not fly drones around active search and rescue, firefighting, or other emergency response efforts.
- Over large crowds – Launching or landing drones above crowds is prohibited.
- National parks – While drones are allowed in most national parks, some sensitive areas prohibit drone use. Check regulations for each specific park before flying.
Additionally, you cannot take off and land a drone on roads or land belonging to other people without permission. Take off and land only in permitted areas.
Icelandic Transport Authority Drone Guidelines
Iceland’s Icelandic Transport Authority (ICETRA) provides guidelines for flying drones in the country. Key rules include:
- Keep drones within sight at all times. First-person view (FPV) goggles that block sight are prohibited.
- Only fly drones during daylight hours.
- Do not fly drones over groups of people. Maintain at least 50 meters distance from people and vehicles.
- Respect privacy and do not record or photograph people without their consent.
- Avoid disturbing animals, especially nesting birds.
- Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Check that your drone liability insurance covers use in Iceland.
Following ICETRA’s rules will help maintain safe and responsible recreational drone use.
Bringing Your Drone on the Airplane
When traveling to Iceland with a drone, be aware of both Iceland’s regulations and your airline’s policies. In most cases:
- Battery size cannot exceed 160Wh
- Drones should be in carry-on luggage, not checked bags
- Batteries must be removed from drones during the flight if possible
- You may need to provide proof that your drone is for recreational rather than commercial use
Check with both your airline and Iceland’s customs office for specific requirements to avoid having drones or batteries confiscated.
Dos and Don’ts of Flying Drones in Iceland
Now that we’ve covered the major rules, here are some best practices to follow when flying drones in Iceland:
Do: Familiarize Yourself with Your Drone
Practice flying at home before your trip so you can operate the drone safely and efficiently in Iceland’s variable conditions. Know your model’s features, limitations, camera controls, and battery life.
Do: Follow Recreational Use Rules
No special training or license is required for recreational drone use in Iceland. However, following all recreational guidelines is essential.
Do: Review the Full Drone Laws
Check ICETRA’s website for the most up-to-date drone regulations in Iceland before your trip. Print a copy to carry as a handy reference.
Don’t: Fly in Prohibited Areas
Avoid no drone zones like airports, crowds, and protected sites to stay legal and avoid fines or confiscation.
Don’t: Fly Over People
Never fly directly over people, vehicles, or buildings. Maintain at least 50 meters distance.
Don’t: Disturb Wildlife
Avoid disturbing birds, particularly nesting areas. Pay attention to wildlife behaviors and move away if they seem disturbed.
Don’t: Invade Privacy
Do not record or photograph people, homes, or properties without permission.
Tips for Flying Drones in Iceland
Once you understand the rules, you’re ready to experience Iceland’s landscapes from an exciting new aerial view. Here are tips for making the most of your drone adventures:
- Bring plenty of charged batteries and memory cards. Opportunities for filming are endless.
- Consider bringing a power bank for on-the-go charging.
- Bring ND filters to photograph waterfalls and compensate for Iceland’s long summer days.
- Pack tools for possible field repairs like screwdrivers, propellers, etc.
- Research drone-friendly locations that allow you to capture Iceland’s iconic scenery within regulations.
- Apps like DroneDeploy and AirMap offer interactive maps of approved, limited, and prohibited drone flight areas.
- Time your trips to avoid crowds and maximize landscape visibility.
- Keep your drone within sight at all times.
- Double check for aircraft and emergency operations before flying.
- Alert people nearby before launching your drone so they are not startled.
- Adjust your flying height and distance based on conditions like wind and visibility.
- Land immediately if weather conditions deteriorate or your drone malfunctions.
Follow Conservation Guidelines
- Stick to trail markers and established paths to avoid damaging fragile vegetation.
- Keep noise and disturbance of wildlife to a minimum.
- Avoid taking off directly from geothermal areas which can damage rotor blades.
Enhance Your Skills
Consider completing a training course to:
- Master advanced flight techniques like tracking moving subjects.
- Learn to create professional-quality aerial films and photographs.
- Fly safely in Iceland’s challenging conditions like high winds or precipitation.
Most importantly, remember drones offer the chance to glimpse Iceland’s natural beauty in an entirely new way. Just follow the rules so you can capture stunning and unique memories.
Recommended Spots for Drone Flying in Iceland
With drone in hand and regulations reviewed, you’re ready to scout Iceland’s landscapes. While drones are restricted around airports and sensitive sites, there are endless approved places perfect for aerial photography. Here are some top spots:
Iceland’s black sand beaches allow epic ocean views. Recommended spots:
- Reynisfjara Beach: Dramatic sea stacks and rock formations with ample open space for launching drones. Located on the south coast near Vik.
- Diamond Beach: See icebergs wash up on shore with a drone’s unique perspective. Near Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
- Rauðasandur Beach: Red sand and turquoise waters make vibrant aerial scenes on the Westfjords peninsula.
Capture Iceland’s mountainous wilderness and glaciers from above:
- Landmannalaugar: Otherworldly rainbow mountains and lava fields accessible by 4×4. Interior Highlands location.
- Snæfellsjökull: Volcanic glacier backdrop for ocean cliffs and craters on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
- Hornstrandir Nature Reserve: Dramatic mountains, fjords, and Arctic foxes in extreme northwest Iceland.
See Iceland’s iconic waterfalls and rivers from new heights:
- Skógafoss: 60 meter waterfall with trails allowing drone access. On the south coast near Vik.
- Seljalandsfoss: Unique chance to fly behind a waterfall’s cascade. Also south coast.
- Dettifoss: Europe’s most powerful waterfall in northern Iceland’s rugged interior.
- Godafoss: Iconic “waterfall of the gods” in Iceland’s north with surrounding snowy vistas.
Safely fly over volcanic craters, fissures, lava fields, and geothermal areas:
- Krafla: Mývatn region’s volcanic crater Víti and Leirhnjúkur lava fields offer stunning aerial views and colors.
- Námaskarð: Hverir geothermal area’s bubbling mud pots and steam vents make fascinating aerial footage. Near Lake Mývatn.
- Reykjanes Peninsula: Volcanic Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark with geothermal hot spots perfect for drones.
Iceland presents amazing opportunities for drone pilots wanting to capture its surreal landscapes from exciting new perspectives. However, following Iceland’s clear guidelines is essential for staying on the right side of regulations. Do your homework beforehand on restricted areas, height limits, and any required permits. Then pack properly, scout locations, fly responsibly, respect the environment, and enhance your skills. Most importantly, keep your drone within sight, avoid crowds, minimize disturbances, and put safety first. Now grab your fully charged batteries and get ready to create incredible aerial views showcasing Iceland’s natural beauty. Just remember to enjoy the view with your own eyes too and capture lasting memories. Happy and safe flying in Iceland!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can you fly drones in Iceland?
A: Yes, drone photography is permitted in Iceland for both recreational and commercial use.
Q: What are the rules for flying drones in Iceland?
A: The maximum height limit is 120 meters without special permission from the Icelandic Transport Authority. The Icelandic Environment Agency has designated several sites as ‘drone-free’.
Q: Do I need a license to fly a drone in Iceland?
A: No, for drones under 25 kg used for recreational purposes, no special training or licenses are required.
Q: Can I fly my drone in Reykjavik and other towns in Iceland?
A: According to the regulations, flying in the city of Reykjavik and other towns is not permitted unless you have special permission.
Q: What should I do before flying my drone in Iceland?
A: Familiarize yourself with your drone, read the full list of Iceland drone laws, and check with the Icelandic Transport Authority and the Environment Agency to see if your chosen location is off-limits.
Q: Can I bring my drone on the airplane to Iceland?
A: Yes, but there are some tricky questions to consider such as check-in or carry-on, and whether drone batteries are allowed onto an aircraft.
Q: What are the consequences of breaking the drone laws in Iceland?
A: Breaking the drone laws in Iceland can result in fines, confiscation of your drone, and even imprisonment.
Q: What are the recommended spots for drone flying in Iceland?
A: Some recommended spots for drone flying in Iceland include the Vatnajökull glacier, the Reynisfjara black sand beach, and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
Q: How can I act responsibly while flying my drone in Iceland?
A: To act responsibly while flying your drone in Iceland, ensure that you’re following the rules and regulations, and not flying over prohibited areas. Also, respect the environment and wildlife.
Q: How can I contribute to the preservation of Iceland’s remarkable landscapes while flying my drone?
A: By respecting the legal framework and actively participating in environmental and nature protection efforts, drone enthusiasts can contribute to the preservation of Iceland’s remarkable landscapes.