Flying a drone in Iceland

A few thoughts from my recent summer trip.

The official Icelandic drone guidance for leisure use is broadly similar to the UK, with one set of rules covering drones up to 3kg in urban areas and 25kg in rural areas (with drones above 20kg requiring insurance). You are supposed to mark your drone with visible contact details. Flight restriction zones near airports are smaller than in the UK, but there are a surprising number of small airports around the country, and quite a few airfields. Restrictions on buildings and structures are only for public buildings and residences - you can fly close to other structures without restriction, for example. You can’t overfly crowds, and must keep “sufficient” distance from people and animals, although no exact distance is specified.

I brought my M2Z in cabin baggage, which turned out to be a good move when 3/4 of our hold bags went missing!

The south-west of Iceland was full of tourists and you can’t reasonably expect to fly a drone at popular sites like Geysir, the big waterfalls, or Jökulsárlón. I travelled along the north and east coasts, where we found plenty of good flying areas with no problem - often we were the only people around, and the same would apply if you travel into the Highlands. I found I got no comments or problems so long as I kept my take-off/landing site well away from other people, and this included sites popular with tourists such as Hverir geothermal area, and some nice spots on the Reykjanes peninsula. Closer to properties, such as at the pseudocraters on the south edge of Lake Myvatn, I flew first thing in the morning when nobody else was around. Watch out for other drone fliers - I encountered several.

It is illegal to fly without permission in the three National Parks: Snæfellsjökull, Þingvellir, and Vatnajökull. So far as I can tell, the first two don’t allow leisure drones at all, but Vatnajökull has a process to apply for permits.

If you’re in any of those areas, you should get hold of a map showing the park boundaries. Note in particular that Vatnajökull covers a large area in the south, but also Jökulsárgljúfur in the north, which includes the Ásbyrgi and Dettifoss areas.

I was successful in getting permits for glacier areas before 9am or after 5pm but not during the busy part of the day. I doubt you would get permission at Jökulsárlón or in the main part of the Skaftafell park - I was refused permission to fly at Svartifoss, it’s just too busy with visitors. I was also refused at Svínafellsjökull, because there is a major landslide risk and they are discouraging visitors from staying there for very long. Skaftafellsjökull was granted, and there are several glaciers east of Jökulsárlón which should be ok.

My main issue was weather. Even in the middle of summer, I had several places I couldn’t fly at all due to mist or high winds, and weather could change considerably from one fjord to the next. I downloaded the UAV Forecast app and found it really useful.

With all that in mind, here’s some of what I was able to film:


Thanks! Brilliant info!! :+1:


What @OzoneVibe said :blush:

Thanks for taking the time to type all that up @kvetner - nice one mate :+1:t2:


PS: I don’t know if it made any difference when applying for the National Park permit, but the application form asks if you have insurance and if you have been trained. I included my certificate of insurance (FPV UK public liability), plus my certificate from the Fly Icarus free online training course. I also included additional detail in my application for each proposed site to make clear I understood height and distance limits, and the need not to fly if sites were unexpectedly crowded. I don’t know if any of that helped, but I think the more you can do to convince them you know what you are doing, the easier it must be for them to approve the permit.

Great info for Iceland @kvetner, just out of curiosity?.
When did you apply for your permits ( I am assuming you applied prior to your trip, I realise they say allow 7 days) and how long did they take to process you application?.
Were the permits email to you?.
All useful info for future trips by other members.

I applied about 14 days in advance, but the person who processes them was on holiday and I actually received my permits via email only a day before I flew the drone. So my advice is to apply early, and chase it up if no reply after 7 days.

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Thanks for the info!.
They cut it fine then !

Some amazing shots there!! Nice job

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