Evidence of drone technology can be dated as far back as 1849. Here, unmanned balloons were used by the Australian military to drop explosives on enemy territory. Drone technology has continued to expand into modern military technology. Most recently, it has met with the recreational market. Now people in the general public can purchase a drone. They can be used extensively for aerial videography and photography. With this, it is possible to capture the true natural beauty with drones in Iceland.
Skyrocketing Drone Popularity
When you take a look at the evolution of technology in general, our latest generation has had technology waiting at their fingertips from the time they were born. The popularity of photography has made resurgence. This is due to the improvements to the cameras in our phones. This technology negates the need to drag along an expensive DSLR camera.
Coupled with our humanly desire to post our favorite life moments on social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, technology is seen as a necessity to our lives. Technology companies continue to design and release state of the art products. As such, the general public flocks to the newest equipment on the market.
The most recent technological must-have is the drone. Young kids are getting them as presents for holidays and birthdays. Older generations are using them on vacations and explorations. All age levels are using them for the same reason though. They are wanting to capture and document from overhead what we can’t see standing on the ground.
The best part is that as technology continues to advance, there is a lessening separation between amateurs and professionals in the filmmaking industry.
Prevalence of Drones in Iceland
With the massive flux in visitors to Iceland in recent years, it should come as no surprise that many people are bringing drones with them. These are used to capture the magnificent untouched beauty of Iceland from angles that you would ordinarily see in movies and documentaries.
As if it wasn’t enough seeing this unique landscape in person, you can now view your trip from the sky. Drones offer easy access to jaw-dropping aerial footage. This provides insight into of one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. It doesn’t matter if you are the newest owner of a drone, or a seasoned veteran. Iceland lends itself as the subject in your next film or photo journey.
Drone Laws in Iceland
If Iceland is the next landing spot for your drone, there are a few things you need to be aware of. These should be considered before you go flying off on an Icelandic exploration.
As of 2018, Iceland has a new set of rules and regulations for flying drones in the country. Although drone use is allowed in Iceland, there are several rules set forth by Icelandic Transport Authority. These rules regulate safe use when flying in the country.
Drone operators will need to become aware of these rules. They should make sure they are practiced when operating a drone within Iceland as well.
10 Rules for Flying Drones in Iceland
- Do not fly your drone over people or large crowds.
- Respect others’ privacy when flying your drone.
- Do not fly your drone higher than 120 meters (427 feet) above ground or water.
- Do not fly your drone within 2 km (1.24 miles) of commercial airports, or 1.5 km (0.93 miles) of other airports. Other excluded areas include national parks, hospitals, state institutes and power plants.
- Due to the proximity of the airport in Reykjavik to the downtown area, it is prohibited to fly your drone here above the altitude of the buildings.
- You must fly during daylight hours and only fly in good weather conditions.
- Do not fly your drone in sensitive areas including government or military facilities. Uses of drones or camera drones are prohibited.
- Mark the drone with your name, address and phone number.
- Keep the drone in sight at all times.
- Check all flight restrictions and regulations for the flying area before flying.
The last thing you want to do when traveling to another country is get in trouble which could otherwise normally have been avoided. It is highly recommended that you familiarize yourself with the applicable rules above based on where you plan to use your drone in Iceland.
There have been reported incidents of visitors violating drone laws carefully placed for their protection, as well as the protection of others. These laws should be easily followed and not far different from other parts of the world. Most of them are standard and should be practiced during every flight.
Drone Permitting in Iceland
Drone permitting is not a requirement for recreational nor commercial use in Iceland. This means you are free to fly your drone without a permit. This is the case, as long as you abide by the laws set in place by the Iceland Transport Authority.
If you are familiar with drone permitting, you will understand this is a huge plus. This is because you have completely bypassed any extra payments and wait times for a permit.
Airplane Traveling with Your Drone
If you have already flown with your drone, you are probably accustomed to requirements an airline may have concerning traveling with a large piece of technological equipment.
As with all technology, you should take the necessary precautions before flying with your drone. Before your trip, it is recommended that you check the specific requirements for the airline you are traveling with. For general information on traveling with your drone, please refer to the recommendations below.
Carry-on vs Check?
The age-old question of whether to carry your luggage on with you or check it and risk increased fees does not stop when concerning traveling with your drone. Checking your luggage also runs the risk of having it lost or stolen. This decision should be made based on your comfort level and personal experience.
Unfortunately, all drones are not created equal. Some of them are smaller or larger than others. This could affect your decision to carry your drone with you or check it with your other luggage. If you have a larger drone such as the DJI Inspire or DJI Matrice, you will most likely have to travel separate from your drone.
You do have the option to ship it prior to your arrival with full insurance. This could prove to be worth the cost rather than trust an airline that is known for lost or damaged luggage. Luckily if you have a drone such as the DJI Phantom. DJI Mavic, and DJI Spark you will probably be able to get away with carrying them on your flight with you.
Should I buy luggage specifically made for my drone?
Our short and simple answer is yes. It could become costly to buy a specifically designed carrying case depending on what style you choose, but we guarantee that it won’t be as expensive as replacing a damaged drone because you didn’t properly store it during your travels.
Sure, you could throw your drone in your backpack if it is small enough but then you risk damaging a pricey piece of equipment before you even get to your destination. Our recommendation is that you carry your equipment on specific luggage designed to keep it safe. You can cut the cost down some by opting to purchase a soft-shell carrying case versus a hard-shell, but we say be better safe than sorry and go with the hard-shell. It isn’t a 100% guarantee that your drone won’t be damaged during your travels but it definitely offers you the best chance at security.
No matter what you choose, make sure you label your carrying case as FRAGILE. Although they have become more durable, drones are not cheap. Nobody wants there equipment being thrown around without care, so make it clear the case contains something fragile.
Should I get a lipo battery bags?
Again, we can keep it simple here – Yes. It is highly likely that you could get your drone batteries confiscated from you at security if you do not have a lipo battery bag. Batteries are considered “dangerous goods” and should be treated with extreme caution when flying.
Lipo battery bags are sealed and ensure that batteries won’t catch fire. No fire = More safe. Do it for the drone – and of course the safety of yourself and others.
Where to fly your drone in Iceland?
Now that we have gotten through the “boring” (but important!) stuff, we can move on to the exciting topic you have all been waiting for! Where should you fly your drone in Iceland?
If you have already done your research on where to travel in Iceland, some of these places we suggest will look familiar. However, it is important to note that you cannot fly your drone just anywhere you want.
Iceland National Parks = No Drones
Unfortunately, national parks are off limits for drone use in Iceland. This means that Vatnajökull National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park and Pingvellir National Park are banned from drone use. This regulation ensures the safety and protection of the regions’ wildlife, as well as to preserve the natural state of the mentioned locations.
Iceland’s national parks are quiet refuges where you can escape and truly appreciate Iceland’s natural beauty without the disturbance of alien objects. We love technology just as much as the next guy but let’s face it – we would be lying if we said technology doesn’t sometimes get in the way of nature.
We ask that you respect the rules and leave the drones at your hotel or Airbnb when exploring these parks – they won’t be allowed in anyway.
Drones Forbidden in Other Areas
Due to the high volume of visitors traveling to Iceland drone use is also prohibited in some of Iceland’s other popular destinations. These include the famous waterfalls of Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, as well as the Reynisfjara Beach and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
If you are unsure if drones are prohibited in the area you are traveling, make sure you look out for large yellow signs that contain a picture of a drone with a red line through it, as well as the words “DRONES ARE FORBIDDEN.” If you do not see one of these signs and are also not in a national park, it should be safe to assume you are in a legal area to fly your drone.
Getting Over It
We understand that the aforementioned areas of Iceland are a disappointment to be included on the drone prohibited list, but we are here to remind you that Icelandic beauty is not limited. This is fantastic news for you as there is still plenty to see and explore in Iceland!
You will have to continue to follow to rules and regulations set forth by the Iceland Transport Authority, but you are allowed to use your drone in many other stunning areas of Iceland.
Seven Great Drone Locations in Iceland
Below we have included a list of our favorite places for drone exploration. Keep in mind that some general regions may have smaller areas that are still off limits.
If you are traveling to the Westfjords, and we hope that you do, you will be pleased to know that this is an area often neglected by visitor traffic. That means, more untouched landscape that will absolutely take your breath away. It is filled with rugged coastlines, lively bird cliffs, and a vast peaceful terrain.
This area perfectly lends itself to drone use and you can expect to capture beautiful sites such as the Arnarfjordur fjord or Rauðisandur beach. Your footage will stun anyone who is lucky enough to see it. The area is scattered with natural beauty and scarce on people. This makes it a prime place to break out the drone. You will have uninterrupted shots of a mesmerizing Iceland landscape.
It is important to note that the Látrabjarg cliffs forbid drone flying so as to not disturb the birdlife there. The Dynjandi waterfall also has drone restrictions in order to preserve the peacefulness of the natural area.
If you were hoping to film a famous Iceland waterfall you are in luck! The Kvernufoss waterfall is a gorgeous waterfall in Skógar. Its canyon provides you with a breathtaking entrance, and the waterfall is the perfect backdrop to film.
As you get closer to the actual waterfall it does become narrower so you will want to show extra care when flying through the canyon. During the summer the Fulmar birds have been known to attack drones due to their curiosity and territorial behavior, so definitely pay attention to that if you are traveling at that time. If you want to show off some of your drone flying skills you can even film from behind the waterfall.
Waterfalls are famous in Iceland and the Nauthúsagil is nothing short of magnificent. It is located in South Iceland and provides you with an amazing area for drone flying.
You will find that a common theme when flying your drone around these waterfalls, is that the ravine leading up to the actual fall is narrow so extreme should be taken. Nevertheless, Nauthúsagil is worth the extra attention and should definitely make your drone exploration list.
Eldhraun Lava Field
If you want something that magical and unique, look no further than Eldhraun. It is completely different than anything else you will find in Iceland and is totally worth spending some battery time on.
Eldhraun was created in one of the greatest eruptions in recorded history. It has an interesting lava pattern and is covered in green moss in areas throughout. It is definitely a special place to explore and could make your Iceland video reel THAT much more unique.
Vik (Iceland’s South Coast)
Vik is a popular tourist and should be expected to have tons of people during your visit. This could potential cause a cramp in your drone flying but there should be plenty of areas to explore and get away from the mass of people.
If you can make it between the village and the Kerlingardalur valley, you will find rugged cliffs and a black sand beach to capture. The underrated Dyrholaey is here as well.
It is important to note that during the summer, this is a popular destination for nesting birds so you will need to take that in account when traveling at that time. They can become territorial and attack your drone if you are not careful to stay away.
In West Iceland you will find the Snæfelsness peninsula that contains diverse nature, adorable villages, picturesque mountains and gorgeous beaches. You won’t have any trouble finding things to film with your drone. In fact, you could capture such a large variety of changing landscape in this region.
Unfortunately, not everything located over here permits drone use though. As mentioned before, drone use is prohibited in all national parks. This includes the Snæfellsjökull National Park located in the western region of the peninsula.
As long as you stay away from there you are allowed to fly your drone. Even with this restriction there is still plenty to film in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and you will not find a shortage or unique nature or villages.
When people think of Iceland they typically think of waterfalls and glaciers. The Sólheimajökull glacier is no exception. If you fly your drone here, be prepared to get some of the most amazing footage you have ever captured.
It is no secret that snow and winter landscape creates a magical feeling. When you couple that with beautiful ice formations and undisturbed landscape you get euphoria. Drone flying at the Sólheimajökull glacier is highly recommended to be a top priority on your list.