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Can You Fly a Drone in Iceland?

Iceland has many appealing sights such as waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, and the world-famous Northern Lights. According to OECD[1], the island nation has attracted more than 1.2 million tourists in 2021. You’re planning a trip to Iceland soon and want to bring your drone.

Can you legally fly a drone in Iceland?

You can fly a drone in Iceland, but you must follow Icelandic Transport Authority and European Union Aviation Safety Agency rules. These rules restrict your distance from airports and other buildings.

You’re happy to hear that your trip to Iceland can go forth without a hitch.

The information we’ll share with you ahead will help you plan an enjoyable trip that should include capturing footage of the Northern Lights with your drone, so keep reading!

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Can you fly a drone in Iceland? Does that include the Northern Lights?

The Icelandic Transport Authority dictates the rules about drone flights in Iceland. Under the organization’s jurisdiction, drone pilots can fly in Iceland, which is excellent news!

Jokullsarlon glacial lake in southwest Iceland.

Yes, that indeed includes the Northern Lights.

You must follow the Icelandic Transport Authority’s rules, which we’ll discuss later in this guide.

In the meantime, if you wish, you can check out the Icelandic Transport Authority’s website here.

Although residents predominantly speak the North Germanic language of Icelandic in Iceland, the Icelandic Transport Authority’s website is available to peruse in English.

Iceland stands as its own island nation, but it has decided to follow drone laws as instituted by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. You have to follow their rules as well when operating your drone.

Can you get a good shot of the Northern Lights with a drone camera?

The Northern Lights, known to some as polar lights or auroras, attract record numbers of guests. Iceland doesn’t exclusively house the Northern Lights, as you can also see them in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Alaska, and Canada.

Northern Lights in Iceland

Nevertheless, if witnessing the Northern Lights firsthand inspired your trip to Iceland with your drone, you may wonder how viable a drone camera is for capturing footage of the lights.

That’s a great question! After all, drone cameras aren’t like your smartphone camera or professional DSLR camera. Depending on the drone model you choose, the camera could be superior to other cameras or inferior.

Keeping that in mind, it’s very much doable to take photos and even videos of the Northern Lights in Iceland using your drone. Ideally, your camera settings should reduce noise and increase ISO.

You also have to get your timing right.

Drones can’t fly infinitely. Even if your drone has a really good battery, it’s only going to last 30+ minutes in the skies.

The Northern Lights can move into and fade out of view frustratingly quickly at times, leaving you with a small window to take the shot you want.

Setting up your drone camera and any accessories you use for taking photos or videos beforehand will allow more time to capture the beauty of the lights!

Drone rules to follow when flying in Iceland

Have you packed your bags and are excitedly awaiting your trip to Iceland to begin?

Before you depart on your flight, make sure you brush up on these rules from the Icelandic Transport Authority and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

Your drone must be in the “open” category

This first rule comes courtesy of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. Your drone will meet Open, Specific, or Certified category criteria depending on factors like weight and when you purchased it.

To meet Open categorization criteria, you cannot use your drone to carry or deposit dangerous materials, fly over 400 feet, or venture outside of your visual line of sight.

Additionally, you will only use your drone to fly directly over people if it weighs 0.55 pounds or less or has the proper class identification label.

Its takeoff mass cannot exceed 55 pounds, and you must have owned the drone before January 1st, 2023.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency must have given the drone a class identification label between 0 and 4.

You cannot use your drone to interrupt any form of traffic

The Icelandic Transport Authority makes it patently illegal to disrupt traffic with your drone, including vehicular, ship, or air traffic.

Do not fly near manned aircraft

If you keep your drone the appropriate distance from airports (more on that to come in just a moment), you shouldn’t risk any interaction with manned aircraft.

That said, things happen, so it helps to prepare. In Iceland, you’re legally required to give manned aircraft the right of way. Redirect your drone to get it away from manned aircraft quickly.

Maintain the privacy of others

Everyone has the right to privacy regardless of where in this wild world you’re piloting your drone. Don’t harass, stalk, follow, or otherwise violate anyone’s privacy with your drone.

Respect property

Iceland has many gorgeous sights, from national parks to art museums, concert theaters, churches, and more. To preserve the legacy this island nation is beloved for, please do not fly your drone near the property.

You’re limited to 150 meters or 492 feet from any public building.

If a collision or accident does occur, the Icelandic Transport Authority makes it very clear that pilots are responsible for the damages. That goes for any damages your drone could cause or does cause.

Keep a visual line of sight on your drone

Seasoned drone pilots should be used to the standard rule of always having their drones in their sights when flying.

In Iceland, the rule also applies, so don’t let your drone stray too far, whether caught up in the majesty of the Northern Lights or another beautiful sight.

Review drone restrictions and regulations ahead of your flight

Iceland generously affords drone pilots many flight freedoms, but don’t assume the Icelandic Transport Authority, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, or another governing body cannot rescind those freedoms.

To stay current on where your drone can fly, download a drone mapping app, and look at the Icelandic Transport Authority’s website for news on new restrictions and regulations. Obey the rules and don’t fly in restricted airspace.

Don’t fly more than 120 meters over ground level

The 400-foot altitude standard you may have grown accustomed to doesn’t apply in Iceland. On this island nation, you cannot fly above 120 meters or 393.7 feet from sea or ground level (whichever applies).

Stay within a prescribed distance of residential areas

Iceland divides its residential areas into urban and rural environments. If you’re flying in an urban area, you cannot use your drone any closer than 50 meters or 164 feet, and in rural areas, it’s 150 meters or 492 feet.

Insure drones over 20 kilograms

Drones weighing more than 20 kilograms or 44.1 pounds must have insurance before you fly them in Iceland. If your drone doesn’t meet that weight threshold, you don’t have to worry about getting it insured.

Do not fly a drone that weighs more than 25 kilograms

The max allowable weight of your drone depends on whether you’re flying in an urban or recreational area.

The Icelandic Transport Authority only permits drones to fly in urban areas that weigh 3 kilograms or 6.61 pounds or less. In rural areas, your drone can weigh up to 25 kilograms or 55.11 pounds.

Keep your distance from airports

As mentioned, let’s take a closer look at Iceland’s rules about drone use around airports.

If you fly near an international Icelandic airport, then you cannot venture any closer than 2 kilometers or 6,562 feet.

For all other airports, the limitation is 1.5 kilometers or 4,921.3 feet.

Mark your contact information on your drone label

Your contact information must go on your drone label, including your full name, your phone number, and your address.

Write clearly and legibly so if an authority figure asks to see your drone label, they can clearly discern the information on the label.

Bruarfoss waterfall, Iceland.

Have you always longed to visit Iceland? Why not bring your drone with you? The Icelandic Transport Authority allows drones on this island nation, including in beloved areas such as the Northern Lights.

Always remember to follow Iceland’s drone rules so you can have the trip of a lifetime!

References:
OECD iLibrary (link)