Flying Drones in Iceland
Drones Flying in Iceland is quite a controversial topic. On the one hand, the country offers fantastic aerial photography and videography opportunities; it’s a land of unique geological features, natural wonders and infinite beauty we’d all love to take photos of.
On the other hand, with masses of tourists visiting each year, drones have become quite an annoyance for those who do not fly them. If you ask me, that’s for good reasons. Surely nobody wants to hear that annoying, high-pitched, propeller noise drones generate. I fly drones, and I don’t like it. Nobody wants to see a swarm of drones around that incredible waterfall or beach that requires hours or days of travel to get to.
I am a registered drone pilot, and I asked myself several times if it was worth bringing my drone to Iceland. I always end up bringing it with me and flying it with due caution and respect. Still, sometimes I do not fly it even if I have it with me. Below are my tips for safely enjoying shooting with your drone in Iceland.
Table of contents
Drone Laws In Iceland
Regarding flying drones in Iceland, the first point for you to refer to should be the websites of local authorities responsible for local regulations. Somehow these pages are a bit hidden in search results, but I have collected them here as a reference for you to explore the resources.
The Icelandic Transportation Authority (ITA) provides extensive information on what can and cannot be done with a drone. Rather than copy-pasting them into this blog post, I have linked all the available resources below for you to dig into.
Essentially, though, here are the main points; Iceland still needs to follow EASA’s regulations; they are preparing to implement them soon. I have reached out to ITA, and they confirmed that but how soon is yet to be confirmed.
This means that, at the moment, registration is only required to fly a drone for commercial purposes. Still, you can already register on flydrone.is even for recreational purposes, should you want to.
Once Iceland implements EASA’s regulations, you will not be required to register again there if you are already registered in any of the other EASA countries.
I will update this post once ITA implements EASA’s regulations; in the meantime, here is their main drone page and FAQs. Be sure to dig into them to review the current rules and regulations in detail.
The main difference that needs to be noted is about the Protected Areas and National Parks regulations, of which I’ll provide an overview in the following section.
National parks and protected areas and Drone Permits in Iceland
The first thing to be aware of is that drones are only allowed in National Parks and protected areas with a permit. However, many places, such as Landamannalaugar, Kerlingafjoll, Vatnajokull and so on, require a permit for which it’s possible to apply online.
At the time of writing, applying for a permit costs 52.600 ISK (source – February 2023). That’s almost 400 USD or Euros. Not cheap, but you can apply for multiple-day/flight plans simultaneously.
However, the Þingvellir and Vatnajökull national parks will issue their permits, and they need to be contacted directly. Here you can check the Vatnajokull park rules. Unfortunately, I could not find any online form for the Þingvellir, and you can inquiry with them directly: https://www.thingvellir.is/en/.
Anyway, here you can:
- Apply for a permit to fly in protected areas
- Check the map of protected areas in Iceland and here for a list of the protected areas and national parks.
Tips to safely flying drones in Iceland
- Do not rely on the DJI app to understand if you can fly in an area or not: all the national parks and protected areas are marked by DJI as “recommended” zones, even if it is not allowed to fly there.
- Avoid the crowded hours; you’d be freer to fly around and less concerned about disturbing others.
- Find an isolated corner to fly and get it up high as soon as possible to avoid disturbing other tourists. Drones can fly, so there is no need to take off close to other people. Also, always assume other people are having the time of their life! It would not be nice to disturb them with the annoying buzz of a drone, would it?
- Be mindful of wildlife: Drones are very stressful for them, especially for birds. They may even try to attack your drone. If this happens to you, fly low and land the drone as soon as possible, even if it is an area where you can fly.
Flying Drones in Iceland – Conclusion
So, should you bring your drone to Iceland, despite all the restrictions, regulations and no-fly zones? Yes, but only with due caution and respect for local laws, wildlife and other visitor’s experience.
A bit of a fun fact: during the 2022 Fagradalsfjall erupting, I was approached three times by other tourists who did not bring their drones because of all the restrictions in Iceland. I felt for them as they missed the opportunity to shoot the erupting Volcano with a drone, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You may not want to be that person, but you also don’t want the one bothering other people and flying in restricted areas without a permit.
Plenty of areas outside the main tourist hotspots are excellent for aerial photography in Iceland. So go ahead and discover them! You will come back with fresh, amazing shots from new locations few have already seen. Furthermore, I am not sure the internet needs yet another drone shot of Skogafoss and the like. You’d probably be much better off getting a more creative, original shot in many other places.
- Discover the best hiking and photography locations in Iceland here.
- Check my recommendations on drones for Hikers.
- Here are some of my favourite locations where you can fly a drone within the Icelandic regulations: Rauðaskál, Huldujökull and the Mýrdalssandur, Rauðibotn or Sigöldugljúfur.
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