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Drone laws and regulations have become confusing in many parts of the world and Iceland is no exception to that. There is also a lot of really outdated information out there. However, soon things will be getting a little bit clearer. As of January 1st 2024, new regulations on unmanned aircraft (drones) have been implemented in the EU and those same regulations will come into effect in Iceland on March 1st 2024. Nevertheless, there are a bunch of local regulations you need to be aware of. In this blog, I focus on the regulations which apply to consumer/prosumer photographers & videographers who want to fly their drone in Iceland.

Disclaimer: While I have done & will do my best to keep this article with rules and regulations up-to-date, information may change in the future. Always make sure to check the accompanied links too if you are unsure about something!

Special thanks to Shari Asselberghs for the cover image of this blog.

Photo Workshop Report: Highlands of Iceland (Mads Peter Iversen)

Drone photography can add an exceptional value to your photography portfolio, especially in the Icelandic Highlands.

Volcanoes in Iceland

Some of my most compelling work has been taken using a drone, while flying above the various volcanic eruptions in Iceland during recent years.

Drone Laws & Regulations In Iceland

In Iceland, the European drone regulations will be implemented on March 1st 2024. This means that everywhere in Iceland the same laws will apply as in the European Union. So what does this mean?

  • If you are licensed within the EU, your drone license will cover flying in Iceland as well and you should already be aware of these rules.
  • If you are not licensed yet, you can find the materials and take the basic A1/A3 exam online via the Icelandic Transport Authority’s drone website. Registration is valid for 5 years and will set you back a small fee. More information can be found on

There are, of course, also local regulations which apply in specific areas such as national parks and protected nature reserves, which I will delve into further into this article.

Which Drone Categories Are There Within The Regulations?

There are essentially two categories of drones according to the law: the Open and the Specific category. The Open category involves all low-risk drone operations involving drones below 25 kilograms, which is what all consumer and prosumer drone users fall under. Most drone photographers and videographers use C0, C1 or C2 classified drones, which are all below one kilogram.

The specific requirements to be in the Open category are:

  • The drone must weigh less than 25 kilograms.
  • The drone pilot needs to maintain a visual line of sight (VLOS) with the drone at all times.
  • You can not fly higher than 120 metres above the ground (not above the take off point).
  • You can not fly over crowds of people.
  • Dangerous goods can not be flown with them.
  • You are not allowed to release objects from the drone.
  • The drone must be marked with the registration number of the drone operator.
Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove flying a drone

Drone rules and regulations can be quite confusing, especially when comparing different countries and even regions.

Which Subcategories Exist In The Open Category?

The Open category is divided into three subcategories: A1, A2 and A3. These categories are separated as follows:

  • Subcategory A1: Fly light drones (up to 900 grams) with few distance restrictions to uninvolved people.
  • Subcategory A2: Fly drones in built-up areas with a minimum of 50 metres from uninvolved people (30 metres with a C2 class drone).
  • Subcategory A3: Fly drones up to 25 kilograms with a minimum of 150 metres from residential, commercial, industrial or recreational areas.

Depending on which drone you own, and how you will use it, you will need a specific license.

Why Buying A DJI Mini 3 Pro Or Mini 4 Pro Is A Bad Idea In 2024!

Drones which are sold after January 1st 2024, must have a C-label. C0 drones weigh less than 250 grams & are flown in subcategory A1. C1 drones weigh less than 900 grams & are flown in subcategory A1. C2 drones weigh less than 4 kg & are flown in subcategories A2 or A3.

Which Drone License Do I Need?

In order to fly in the Open category, all drone pilots must be registered on the Icelandic Transport Authority’s website ( Depending on which drone you fly, you may need additional licensing:

  • If you are flying a sub-250 gram drone, such as the DJI Mini 3 Pro or the DJI Mini 4 Pro, you do not need further licensing. This only applies to drones with the C0 label.
  • If you are flying a drone which weighs more than 250 grams, you must pass the A1/A3 exam. After passing the exam, drone pilots can fly drones up to 900 gr in subcategory A1 and up to 25 kg in subcategory A3. Such drones are labeled with a C1, C2 or C3 label.
  • In subcategory A2 it is allowed to fly closer to people and therefore it is considered the subcategory in the Open category with the most risk. There are more requirements for pilot competency in the A2 subcategory and drone pilots must pass an additional A2 exam.

Click to enlarge!

The EASA published a handy table to explain all of the categories and when/how you can fly in them.

A more detailed explanation of the various drone categories and the accompanying rules and requirements, can be found on the Icelandic Transport Authority’s website.

If you are still looking into buying a drone, make sure to check out my drone buyer’s guide which details what you should buy as a photographer.

Where & When Can I Fly My Drone In Iceland?

You can fly anywhere, and anytime, in Iceland as long as you stick to the new European regulations. However, there are a few exceptions and things to keep in mind:

  • You can not exceed 120 metres of altitude above the ground. It’s good to know that the altitude shown on your drone’s remote controller is the altitude from the takeoff point, not from the ground. This means that, in some cases, it can be difficult to know exactly whether you’re within the letter of the law or not.
  • You can not fly within a 2 kilometre radius of airports. If you are using a DJI drone, these are well marked on the map and in most cases, they will even prevent you from flying there. If you need to fly within this two kilometre radius, you can ask for an exception via the Isavia website.
  • You can not fly your drone near any government buildings.
  • In Reykjavík, you are not allowed to fly higher than any of the building’s near your drone.
  • You are allowed to fly at night but need to have a green strobe light on the drone to maintain VLOS (visual line of sight).
  • You can not fly closer than 150 metres to any building in rural areas. In urban areas, this is limited to only 50 metres.
  • It is forbidden to fly your drone near bird cliffs, birds and other wildlife.
  • Taking off from private land is only allowed with permission from the land owner.
  • Finally, for some specific areas in Iceland additional permits are required, which I delve into further in this article.
Hnausapollur lake in the Central Highlands of Iceland

Iceland has some of the most stunning landscapes you can find on this planet. Photographing using a drone really puts the uniqueness into perspective.

Do I Need Any Additional Permits To Fly My Drone In Iceland?

The short answer is ‘yes’, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Aside from the European drone regulations, there are also many local regulations in effect. These can be found in certain protected areas and national parks around Iceland. Applying for a permit for drone flying can easily be done but can, in some cases, also cost you money. To help you figure out where and when you need permits, I have collected the four main entities with some explanations below.

It’s also important to note that many of the more popular locations may not have any specific drone regulations but might be visited by a large number of tourists. This means in many cases that you can not fly your drone as this would mean you are flying over a crowd of people. However, if you fly outside the most crowded times, you can fly your drone if no local regulations are enforced.

Aerial & Drone

There are many photography locations in Iceland that really shine when you witness them from an aerial perspective.

Vatnajökull National Park

Vatnajökull National Park is the largest national park in Iceland and stretches from the southeastern part of the country all the way to Ásbyrgi in the north. This enormous area protects all natural wonders surrounding Vatnajökull glacier. It contains many popular locations such as, but not limited to, Jökulsárlón (Glacier Lagoon), Fjallsárlón, Fellsfjara (Diamond Beach), Ásbyrgi, Dettifoss, Selfoss, Askja, Langisjór, Eldgjá, and many other locations. A complete map of the whole Vatnajökull National Park is available on their website.

It’s good to note that for some areas permits will never be granted (such as Dettifoss and Askja). In some other areas, especially in the Highlands, park rangers can give verbal permission for the use of a drone without the need of a specific permit. A complete list of those locations, can be found on the website of Vatnajökull National Park.

Applying for a drone permit to fly your drone within Vatnajökull National park, can be done via a special online application form. All applications have to be made with at least 10 days notice, but recommends giving them at least 4 weeks.


While I don’t find the aerial perspectives to be that interesting at the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, some might want to put up their drones so it’s good to know what the local regulations are.

Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park

Thingvellir (Þingvellir in correct Icelandic) National Park is one of the most visited areas in Iceland, as it is considered to be a part of the Golden Circle. Regardless of this, the local rules in Þingvellir National Park are pretty straightforward. There are no specific permits required. There is, however, one restriction that covers the most popular locations within the park.

From the Service Centre at Leirar in the north to Þingvallavatn in the south of the national park, drone flying is not allowed between 9:00 and 18:00. This area is marked with a red circle on the map. This is due to the large amount of visitors in this area. This contains locations such as Hak, Almannagjá, Lögberg, Flosagjá, Öxarárfoss, the Þingvellir Church, Silfra and more.

In other areas of the national park, this limitation does not apply regarding drone flying. Though, they ask to keep in mind other visitors and especially animals.

More information can be found on the Þingvellir National Park website.

Click to enlarge!

This map, provided by Þingvellir National Park, illustrates where the local limitations are in effect (within the red circle).

Snæfellsjökull National Park

Snæfellsjökull National Park is located on the western side of Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This national park is under the maintenance of the Environment Agency of Iceland (Umhverfisstofnun). Within Snæfellsjökull National Park, drone flying is prohibited between April 15th and September 15th, within the area between the road (Nesvegur) & the ocean, unless you have a permit from the Environment Agency of Iceland. Outside of those dates, and that specific area, you do not need a permit to fly your drone.

Requesting a drone permit can be done on the website of the Environment Agency of Iceland (Umhverfisstofnun). Please be aware that requesting such a permit is quite costly and comes with a set of rules you will need to follow!

Click to enlarge!

Snæfellsjökull National Park is located on the western side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and encompasses a large part of the area.

Other Protected Areas by the Environment Agency of Iceland (Umhverfisstofnun)

Outside of these national parks, there are many other protected areas such as nature reserves, known breeding grounds for specific bird species, and more. Not all these areas have limitations in regards to drones and not all of them have limitations that apply all year.

Popular areas include, but are not limited to, the following locations in Iceland:

  • West Fjords: Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, Látrabjarg, Dynjandi (banned between May 1st and September 15th)
  • West Iceland: Flatey, Arnarstapi (banned between April 15th and September 15th), Hellnar (banned between April 15th and September 15th), Snæfellsjökull National Park (as mentioned before)
  • South Iceland: Dyrhólaey, Skógafoss, Gullfoss, Geysir
  • North Iceland: Góðafoss, Hverfjall (Mývatn), Mývatn, Dimmuborgir (Mývatn)
  • Central Highlands: Þjórsárdalur (Háifoss, Gjáin, …), Þjórsárver (banned between May 10th and August 10th), Fjallabak nature reserve (banned between June 15th and September 15th), Landmannalaugar (banned between June 15th and September 15th)
  • Reykjavík: Grótta (Reykjavík)
Aerial photograph of Tungnaá river in Iceland

For all the photo workshops I (co-)host, where we visit protected areas, I take care of all the required permits for our participants so you don’t have to delve into all of these specific rules.

A more complete list can be found on the website of the Environment Agency of Iceland. There is also a map available of all protected areas.

Requesting a drone permit can be done on the website of the Environment Agency of Iceland (Umhverfisstofnun). Please be aware that requesting such a permit is quite costly and comes with a set of rules you will need to follow!

Temporary Restrictions & Regulations

On occasion, temporary and regional drone bans may also be enforced in Iceland. On several occasions such a ban has been invoked in the past when, for example, a prominent individual visits Iceland or when authorities want to clear the area for rescue and scientific efforts (such as during the disaster in Grindavík on November 10th or the first hours of a volcanic eruption).

While it’s difficult to stay updated on those specific drone bans, they are generally communicated via the Transport Authority of Iceland or on the Isavia website.

Behind the Shot - New Earth

For example, during volcanic eruptions there may be temporary restrictions in place on drone flying when scientists are performing scientific surveys.

Level Up Your Drone Photography On A Photo Tour

Drone photography has become a game-changer when it comes to landscape photography. Even if you are a drone photography novice, you can learn the basics and more on a photography workshop.

On all my photo tours, I’ve got you covered with the required permits. As part of each photography tour, the required permits are taken care of by me. This allows you to fly in every protected location with peace of mind.

Join a photography workshop and level up your drone flying skills. Especially in the Icelandic Highlands, you get to learn the tricks of the trade in the most beautiful photographic playground.

Learn Drone Photography

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What to Expect?

  • A 125-page educational PDF about nature drone photography with very detailed explanations
  • Which drone to get for photography and why
  • Important settings and configuration options 
  • A list of useful skills & tips
  • A list of useful accessories and what not to buy at all
  • How to research locations for drone photography
  • How to compose with a drone and insight into Jeroen’s thought process with plenty of examples
  • Thoughtfully planning ahead for your drone shoot
  • The how and why of creating bracketed images
  • The how and why of shooting HDR panoramas
  • What challenges you might face and how to deal with them
  • Common mistakes & how to deal with them
  • How to stitch your panoramas together


Use EBOOK20 to get 20% off your Nature Drone Photography (E-Book) purchase!

Support Jeroen’s Work

As an independent photographer, Jeroen partially relies on your support to keep producing worthwhile content such as blogs, photographs, books and much more. If you want to support his work, it is possible to do so by buying his e-books & books, prints or calendars.

You can also sign up to the newsletter to stay up to date on new blog posts, projects, workshops and other interesting information. Additionally, signing up grants you a 10% discount on your next purchase.

Thank you for considering!

Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove

Jeroen is an award-winning Belgian photographer based in Iceland. The past years, he dedicated his photography to the Central Highlands & volcanic eruptions. Most recently, he received international attention for his work at the Fagradalsfjall volcano.


  • Mark Romine says:

    Hi Jeroen,

    Nice through article. Thanks for sharing it!

    In the section above “Which Drone License Do I Need?” you write, “Such drones are labeled with a C1, C2 or C3 label.” Is this labeling printed somewhere on the drone by the manufacture or is it added to the drone in the form of a registration label?

    I have a Mavic 3 Pro bought in the U.S. and I do not see any classification label printed on it by DJI such as C1, C2 or C3.

    I have a a UAS registration number from the IAA (Irish Aviation Authority which is part of the EU) that number allows me to fly in A1 or A3 subcategories but that number does not have the C1, C2 or C3 nomenclature in it. What I’m I missing?


    • Hi Mark, thanks for reaching out! It seems that only drones sold in Europe have these labels. I know that the Mavic 3 Pro shipped in Europe with a C2 label as it’s over 900 grams. I did a bit of research on this and there’s no mention on these labels being required on drones sold outside of the US. As long as you’re licensed in the EU and fly in the correct category, I wouldn’t be too concerned about it.

  • Josh Simons says:

    Thanks for the further info. I completed the A1/A3 test in October in preparation, so I’m all set.

  • Julia says:

    If I am a photographer who wants to use drones on frequent basis in Iceland (for ex in Highlands ect) How to apply for this kind of long term permit?

    • Hi Julia, thanks for reaching out. In the highlands there are a few areas where you need additional permits such as Fjallabak Nature Reserve, Vatnajökull National Park and Þjórsárdalur. Such permits can be obtained from the Environment Agency of Iceland as detailed in the article. I am not aware of them granting long-term permits. It’s likely you will have to apply each time you go.

  • Josh Simons says:

    I have one other question (from reading your e-book): The DJI Mini 3 Pro is, as you say, a C0 drone. But is it still considered a C0 in the EU if using the heavier battery, which does take it over the 250g limit, I think?

    • If the battery takes it over 250 grams, it is no longer a C0 drone. I even think the C0 label is printed on the batteries themselves so the drone can’t be labeled as C0 with the larger Plus batteries. When it’s over 250 grams, you can fly it within the A1/A3 Open category though.

  • Josh Simons says:

    Thank you for gathering all of this information into one place — very useful.

    One question: In the US, drones are now required to have Remote ID (broadcast informational data). Is this now also an EU requirement?

    I’ve purchased and downloaded your e-book and am enjoying it — thanks for this as well.

    • Hi Josh, thanks for your kind words. Glad to read you find the article useful. In the EU, remote identification is required since January 1st 2024. However, in Iceland these rules are not yet into effect. They will be from March 1st onwards.

  • Andy Fields says:

    Thanks for this article. It answers a lot of questions, since I”m planning a visit to Iceland with my drone. It’s basically a case-by-case depending on your location, season and time of day.
    Is it also true that many places are privately owned land in Iceland, and one should try to get permission to fly if you can determine who to ask?
    And, your drone e-book is excellent?

    • Hi Andy, glad to read that the article helped you out and that you are enjoying my drone e-book! To answer your question… Private land owners can prevent you from taking off from their land if they desire. However, the airspace is maintained by the Icelandic Transport Authority, which means that you can take off from public land and still fly over privately owned land. Of course, the real question is: do you want to be that person?

  • Jon Ames says:

    Great article! Very useful as typically the details are difficult to find out.

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