Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag

Ask the Expert

What rules govern the use of drones for aerial photography in Iceland?

By Staff

  • Drone usage New stricter rules have been imposed on the use of drones in Iceland. 

One of the questions we get regularly is whether Iceland has any restrictions or laws regarding the use of aerial drones, popular among photographers for the use in aerial photography?

Answer: Until recently the use of drones was virtually unregulated in Iceland. Earlier this year, however, the Icelandic Transport Authority (ITA) issued new rules which restrict the use of drones in urban areas and in the vicinity of airports. The use of drones has also been further restricted in Vatnajökull National Park, as well as at numerous sites where landowners have banned the use of drones on their property.

The general rule is that the use of drones within 2 km (1.24 miles) of commercial airports and within 1.5 km (0.93 miles) of other airports is strictly banned.

This makes it illegal to operate drones in downtown Reykjavík, around the old harbour and in the nearby residential areas. The rules make an exception for drones which do not fly higher than nearby buildings.

According to the new rules it will also become illegal to fly drones at altitudes greater than 130 meters (427 feet).

The Icelandic Transport Authority can issue exemptions, which could permit the operation of drones above the altitude limits, and to the operation of drones in the vicinity of airports. 

The rules were imposed after a series of near accidents where people had flown drones above the downtown lake Tjörnin, taking the drones straight into the flight paths of incoming aircraft.

Read more: Stricter rules on aerial drones debated after near-collision over downtown Reykjavík

Restrictions on drone flight

Restrictions on drone flight Inside the red area drones may not fly above the tallest nearby buildings. Photo/Icelandic Transport Authority

The use of drones has also been restricted or banned at some sites around Iceland. The Vatnajökull National Park has limited the general usage of drones in the northern regions of the central highlands park without a special permit. However, park managers and rangers can allow the use of drones: Special permits are issued if the use is a part of scientific research or film projects. Permit application forms are here

Read more: Drones banned in northern Vatnajökull National Park to protect wildlife

drones_dettifoss.pngNot here Drones have been outlawed in the region of Dettifoss waterfall. Photo/Vísir/Hörður Jónasson

The Transport Authority has also ruled that private landowners are within their right to ban or restrict the use of drones on their property. A number of landowners have taken advantage of this to ban the use of drones.

These bans began popping up after cases where flying aerial drones scared horses and other livestock.

Read more:  Police in W. Iceland stop foreign travellers from harassing a herd of horses with an aerial drone

The rules governing use of drones are still evolving in Iceland. Our advice is to show some common sense. Respect other people who might be travelling in the same area. Both their personal sefety by making sure you’re not flying it within 50 metres of them, and also by not ruining their experience. A buzzing drone in the sky in a remote and quiet area can be quite the mood killer!

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