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Everything You Need to Know About Flying Your Drone in Iceland

Iceland is perfect for aerial photography. Zooming out and having a bird’s-eye view truly shows how nature changes and forms the country’s diverse landscape. Flying a drone can show you where waterfalls begin, the patterns of river networks, whales swimming in the ocean, the effects of earthquakes from long ago, and at the time of writing, you can even fly over an active volcano! In this article, we will tell you what you need to know when flying your drone in Iceland.

Restrictions when flying your drone in Iceland

First, it is good to know some of the restrictions that are in place when flying your drone in Iceland. You are not allowed to fly your drone over a crowd of people or near people. You also can’t fly your drone close to airports, houses, and public buildings. A drone may not fly above 120m [394ft] and beyond the line of sight of the drone’s pilot.

If you intend to use your drone for commercial purposes, you need to register it. Professional photographers, people of the press, and scientists are examples of people who need to register their drone. The registration is on the Icelandic Transport Authority webpage and is free of charge.

Reykjavík

Flying your drone in Reykjavík

Reykjavík is Iceland’s capital and its beautifully located surrounded by the ocean and mountains. Unfortunately, drone flying in Reykjavík is limited because of residential areas, people, and the close proximity to Reykjavík Airport.

Protected areas and National Parks

In Iceland, 114 protected areas are under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Agency of Iceland. To fly over these areas, you need permission from the Agency. The Agency charges a fee for processing applications for permits in protected areas.

For flying over National Parks you need a permit. More information on permits can be obtained on the following websites:

– Þingvellir National Park: thingvellir.is/en

– Vatnajokull National Park: vatnajokulsthjodgardur.is/en

– Snæfellsjökull National Park and protected areas: ust.is/english

Popular tourist destinations like Skógafoss waterfall, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, Reynisfjara beach, Gullfoss waterfall, Látrabjarg bird cliffs, and Dynjandi waterfall are banned for drones.

Views when flying your drone in Iceland
Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon – you need special permission to fly your drone here.

Drones and nesting areas

It is not allowed to fly your drone close to bird cliffs, and regulations are stricter during nesting season or any other time when animal or bird habitats are vulnerable. If a drone causes disruptions to wildlife in the area, the pilot should stop flying immediately.

Birding in Iceland
Don’t disturb nesting areas when flying your drone in Iceland.

Where to fly your drone in Iceland

With these restrictions in mind, there are still plenty of options for beautiful drone shots as natural beauty is found everywhere around the country. First of all, why not head to the active volcano? Fagradalsfjall volcano lies only around 40km [25mi] from Reykjavík on the Reykjanes peninsula. It is the first known eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula in almost 800 years. Lava is slow flowing, so it is relatively safe to get close to the edges of the new lava field. For a shot of the crater, drone photography is perfect! The lava field is expanding fast, and these days, it is not possible anymore to get really close to the crater on foot.

Volcano by Golli
Active volcano on the Reykjanes peninsula, photo by Golli

Why not fly your drone over a fjord in North Iceland? Eyjafjörður fjord is frequented by whales who enter the fjord to feed. You can spot humpback whales, minke whales, but also dolphins and harbour porpoises, and let’s not forget the seabirds. An aerial shot of a whale breaching the water is just magnificent! You can also fly over one of Iceland’s many lava fields and capture the vastness of the country, or over streams and rivers to get an overview of water patterns!

Look for yellow signs picturing a drone with a red line through it to know if flying a drone is forbidden in the area.