What are the current rules and regulations regarding the use of drones in Iceland? Is it possible to fly your drone everywhere?

What are the current rules and regulations regarding the use of drones in Iceland? Is it possible to fly your drone everywhere, and if not, where are the most recommended spots? Read on to find out all you need to know about flying drones in Iceland... as well as check out some incredible drone footage! 

Over the last decade, UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), aka; 'drone technology' has come on leaps and bounds, transforming from the latest in military equipment to portable home devices, capable of capturing staggering 4K footage and photographs. 

It has, without doubt, ignited a photographic renaissance, a digital revolution where cameramen of all styles, creed and background can now access angles and locations that once would have been impossible to reach.



This has transformed the way that we capture the world around us, as well as how we view it—as technology continues to develop, the line between amateur and professional filmmaker blurs, especially when considering the plethora of drone-shot showreels found today online.

It is, in short, an exciting time to get into photography.

Header Photo Credit: Max.Pixel. 

As prices continue to drop on recreational drones, more and more people are opting to try their hand at this new style of easy-access aerial wizardry. This has been no different from other major steps in the history of photography; celluloid to digital, shoulder-mounted cams to GoPros, 35mm to 4K...

...this is an industry forever reshaping itself, and as drone photography increases in popularity and usage—not just in Iceland, but around the world—an entirely new wave of style, composition and technique must now be welcomed with open arms.



Iceland has become a particular favourite location for drone photographers over the last few years. After all, the dramatic, untouched and wild landscapes that characterise this country lend themselves to stunning aerial footage, something that Hollywood has picked up on as quickly as amateur drone filmmakers.

Drones can currently be purchased in Iceland from a number of stores, including the hardware store, ELKO, where consumers can expect prices ranging from 5000 ISK to 333,000 ISK. There is also a store dedicated to drones found in downtown Reykjavík, DJI Reykjavík, convenient for those that may have left their battery charger at home or are in need of some additional cables or gadgets for their drone usage within Iceland. 

This wide availability, however, has come with a number of problems, the greatest of which is a lack of experience in those purchasing them for immediate use. 

Current Drone Regulations in Iceland. 

Like any new technology, there has been a period of experimentation and tolerance when it comes to drones, something that legislators have had to work hard to try and deal with. This lack of regulation has, in the past, led to some truly incredible and foolhardy incidents. 

Drones have been flown over airports and the White House, been used to smuggle narcotics into prison, and, on a lighter note, have been used to make cats (and other household pets) levitate around the room like strange, cyborg-birds. Such incidents can go on for only so long. 



Back in 2016, drone hobbyists were becoming a serious problem to the local Icelanders, due in large part to the sheer amount of them and the lack of experience of their pilots. Brandur Bjarnason Karlsson of the Icelandic Drone Association said at the time: 

"People don’t like seeing drones being flown over so many people. There isn’t a lot of experience yet with ensuring the safe use of these devices."

This was taken on board by the Icelandic government, who made moves to start regulating their usage. In regards to contemporary Icelandic legislation, it should first be noted that both recreational and commercial drone users do not need to have a drone permit in Iceland. With that being said, there are a number of important rules that must be adhered to at all times. 

Those who fail to adhere to such regulations face fines, having your equipment taken away, and even arrest. It should also be made clear that regulations relating to drones are liable to change quickly, meaning you should keep yourself updated regularly to avoid any run-ins with the law. 

Below are the following rules regarding drone use in Iceland (as of 2018):


  1.     Always respect the privacy of others when flying your drone.
     
  2.     Do not exceed a maximum height of 130 metres (427 feet).
     
  3.     Only fly your drone during the daylight hours, and make sure that conditions are suitable. Keep the drone to your eye line. 
     
  4.     The use of drones and camera drones is prohibited near government or military facilities in Iceland. 
     
  5.     You are not permitted to fly your drone in Reykjavik above the height of the buildings. This is because of the close proximity of Reykjavik Domestic Airport to the downtown area. In urban areas, drones must weigh no more than 3kg and display your name, address and phone number.
     
  6.     It is not permitted to fly your drones within 2 kilometres (1.24 miles) of a commercial airport, or 1.5 kilometres (0.93 miles) near any other airport. Other excluded areas include national parks, hospitals, state institutes and power plants. A full list of the banned areas can be found here.
     
  7.     Do not fly your drone over crowds or people. 
     

Despite these regulations, the misuse of drones continues to occur regularly in Iceland. Over the last few months, a number of stories have been reported linked to such behaviour, including one case where a drone-pilot came dangerously close to interrupting a rescue operation, whilst another had his machine banned after using it to spy into people's living rooms. 

Trust me when I say that the Icelandic media is a small community, ever thirsty for stories about misbehaving tourists. If you wish to keep your name out of the papers, ensure that you're acting as responsibly as possible whilst flying your drone in Iceland. 

Below, you can read the guidelines as specified by the Icelandic Transport Authority. 

A list of up to date regulations regarding the use of drones in Iceland.

Bringing Your Drone on the Airplane

If you already own a drone, chances are that you will want to bring it with you on your holiday to Iceland. That, naturally, poses some tricky questions; check-in or carry-on? Are drone batteries allowed onto an aircraft? Should I buy a specialist travel bag?



Bring your drone onto an aircraft poses a number of questions. Make sure you know the regulations.Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Credit: Markus Eigenheer. 

Questions such as these will have to be weighed up before your flight, though it is always recommended that you check the specific details with your airline. With that being said, there is universal advice when it comes to travelling with a drone. 

First of all, bear in mind that drone technology can be thin and fragile, thus not capable of taking the often-negligent way that bags are moved from the airport to the aircraft, and back again. If you are planning on checking in your drone, make sure that it is fully protected inside in the bag with labels marking it FRAGILE”.



Also, keep in mind the fact that, according to the Montreal Convention, airlines are only liable for approximately $1000 USD in baggage loss. If you have to take a number of connecting flights to arrive in Iceland, know that with each stop, the chances of damage or stolen property increase, marking a pretty risky beginning to your vacation here. 

Thankfully, there are a wide variety of drones available, all different shapes and sizes. Drones such as the DJI Phantom, DJI Mavic, and DJI Spark are all mobile enough that they may be brought on the plane with you, whilst bigger drones are, more often than not, shipped with full insurance to the destination separately. This would include such models as DJI Inspire and DJI Matrice.



When it comes down to a specialist drone bag, it is always recommended that you carry your equipment in luggage specifically designed for it. This means ample protection and organised sections where you can store different parts of your drone.

Know that “hard shell” bags are particularly advised if you plan to travel extensively with your drone, though these will likely cut into your budget more so than a “soft shell”. 

Aerial footage, as taken with a drone, demonstrates the artistic skill of Mother Nature perfectly.

And another important factor; lipo battery bags are essential when travelling overseas with a drone. If you do not have a lipo battery bag, it is likely that the airline will confiscate the batteries from you as they are considered to be “dangerous goods”.

One of the reasons why lipo battery bags are so essential is because they are sealed, thus ensuring that the battery does not catch fire. 

Best Locations for Drone Photography in Iceland

Iceland is a land known for its staggering natural vistas, incredible attractions and open isolation, all three being major draws to the world’s photographers and filmmakers. On almost every tour sold in Iceland, one of the major instructions to guests is simple; bring your camera!

This is a country so fantastical and ancient, it often defies belief; footage is a sure-fire way of bringing your experience back to life, making for a far more interesting souvenir than, say, a stuffed Puffin or a Hallgrímskirkja snowglobe. 

Many of these, whilst widely visited on tourist trails such as the Golden Circle and Diamond Circle sightseeing routes, can be perceived in an entirely different way with the use of drone technology. 

As of 2016, however, the recreational use of drones is banned at all National Parks in Iceland, those are: Vatnajökull National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park and Þingvellir National Park

This regulation has been put in place to protect the regions' wildlife, as well as preserve the peace and tranquillity that many are trying to find in such locations. 

Iceland's national parks have a peaceful ambience, thus the temptation may be there to try and get away with it. In short, don't; many visitors in the past began to complain that the low-flying buzz of a drone took away from their experience.

This is not a total ban, however; those flying drones for science and research purposes are still allowed to fly at Vatnajökull, though permission must be granted to do so. 



Aerial view over Veiðivötn in the Icelandic highlands.

Take, for example, the South Coast waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. Whilst these are popular attractions, visited every day in all seasons, it is only the drone-pilot who is capable of seeing them ‘in context’—that is, as an individual feature against a wider backdrop.

A little further down along the South Coast, visitors could choose to film the black sand beach, Reynisfjara, and the nearby village of Vík í Mýrdal, capturing the quiet solitude of Icelandic rural life in one of the country’s most spectacular and picturesque regions. 



Another popular location for drone photography is the Westfjords, an area of incredible natural vistas, rugged coastlines and lively bird cliffs. The Westfjords are, arguably, some of the best types of locations to use your drone in Iceland thanks to the lack of other people nearby, making the practice far safer.

Guests to the Westfjords could take footage of such locations as the Látrabjarg bird cliffs, the western-most point of both Iceland and Europe and the beautiful Arnarfjörður fjord. However, restrictions of drone usage by the beautiful Dynjandi waterfall have been put in place, to ensure the peace and quiet in the area.



In truth, the aforementioned regions are mere recommendations. Frankly, the entire country is suited to drone photography, making it somewhat of an endless arena of possibilities for artists and filmmakers, although you will need to take some restrictions into consideration.

One of the great pleasures of having a drone handy is that, during your travels, you can stop off where you see fit to capture the incredible landscapes around you.

Drone film and photography also makes for an incredible souvenir, providing a fantastic and captivating alternative to showing friends and family the old holiday slideshow.

But, as already mentioned, piloting a drone in Iceland requires an up-to-date knowledge of the legislation, as well as practical experience flying. To maximise your drone use in Iceland, it is highly advised to practise your composition and handling beforehand, so as not to meet disappointment when here. 


Did you enjoy our article, Flying Drones in Iceland | All You Need To Know? Did you bring your drone to Iceland, and if so, where did you find the best places to fly were? Were you met with any obstacles along the way? Do you feel as though we have missed anything out? Please, make sure to leave your thoughts and queries in the Facebook comments box below.