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Rules for the use of drones for recreational purposes

In general, the use of drones for recreational purposes is allowed in Vatnajökull National Park, but regional restrictions apply in some areas. The general rules of the Icelandic Transport Authority must be followed, but the rules of Vatnajökull National Park (general and regional) below also apply.

General authorization for the use of drones

In addition to the Icelandic Transport Authority’s general rules on the use of drones, the following rules apply within Vatnajökull National Park (general and regional).

The rules are intended to contribute to the following goals of Vatnajökull National Park:

- Conservation of wildlife

- Visitor safety

- Quality experience for visitors

- Pollution control

Note that the rules below only apply to the use of drones for recreational purposes. If the project is in any way commercial (filmmaking, advertising, research, etc.), an appropriate permit must be applied for through Vatnajökull National Park’s website. If the applicant is in doubt as to which category the project falls into, it is best to e-mail an inquiry to [email protected].

General rules regarding the use of drones for recreational purposes

  • Flight times should be kept to a minimum and flights should be avoided during the area’s busiest times of day. A drone must never be flown near or over people, unless approval has been obtained (e.g. in organized group tours). Disturbing the experience of tranquillity, guest safety and personal privacy should be avoided.
  • It is not allowed to disturb wildlife. If the flight unexpectedly disturbs birds or other wildlife, it must be stopped immediately.
  • The conductor of the drone is fully responsible for the use of the drone. It must not harm people, wildlife, or nature, and it must not leave any permanent traces. If a drone is damaged or crashes, it and all its components must be collected and removed. If it is dangerous to recover a crashed drone, or it cannot be found, it must be reported to the national park.
  • Many popular destinations in the national park are close to the national park boundary. The National Park has no jurisdiction outside of them, and therefore it is always the responsibility of the drone operator to check if a permission from landowners is needed.
  • In other respects, the flight of unmanned aircraft shall be conducted in accordance with regulation no. 990/2017, on the operation of remotely piloted aircraft and instructions on the Icelandic Transport Authority’ website.
  • A poster with the general rules of the Icelandic Transport Authority.

Regional conditions

In a few parts of the national park, in addition to the general rules of the Icelandic Transport Authority, the site-specific conditions explained below apply.

Helga Hvanndal

Category I: Areas where the use of drones is prohibited due to the experience of tranquillity and/or bird protection

In the following areas, flying drones for recreational purposes is prohibited:

  • Skaftafell (Svartifoss, Skaftafellsheiði, Morsárdalur, Kjós and Skaftafellsfjöll, etc.) – for bird protection, safety and to ensure a quality visitor experience. The only place in Skaftafell where drones are allowed, is in front of Skaftafellsjökull (see category III).
  • Jökulsárlón and Fellsfjara. From April 15th to July 15th – due to bird protection. See category IV for flights outside this time of the year.
  • Jökulsárgljúfur (including Ásbyrgi, Vesturdalur, Hljóðaklettar, Hafragilsfoss, etc.) – for bird protection, safety and to ensure a quality visitor experience. It is permitted to fly drones at Dettifoss on the west side of the river (see category V).
  • Askja - To ensure a quality visitor experience.

Category II: Areas where the use of drones is subject to the verbal permission of rangers

In the following areas, rangers can give verbal permission for the use of drones. The conditions for a permit are based on an assessment of the state of the ecosystem and/or a specific time of day when there is less tourist traffic than usual (e.g. early morning or late afternoon/evening). The ranger records the granting of the permit on a special form. This applies in the following areas:

  1. Service area at Drekagil huts
  2. Herðubreiðarlindir
  3. Hvannalindir
  4. Kverkjökull
  5. Service area at Sigurðarskáli hut
  6. Service area at Snæfell hut
  7. Eldgjá
  8. Laki

Category III: Skaftafellsjökull - Restrictions and permissions

The use of drones in front of Skaftafellsjökull is permitted at certain times of the day, but elsewhere in Skaftafell (Svartifoss, Skaftafellsheiði, Morsárdalur, Kjós and Skaftafellsfjöll, etc.) the use of drones for recreational purposes is prohibited - for bird protection, safety and to ensure a quality visitor experience.

The use of drones is permitted at Skaftafellsjökull at the following times of the day, which vary depending on the time of year and the sunrise/sunset:

  • May 1st to September 15th - before 09:00 or after 18:00
  • September 15th to October 31st - before 10:00 or after 17:00
  • November 1st to February 29th - before 11:00 or after 15:00
  • March 1st to April 30th - before: 10:00 or after 17:00

Category IV: Jökulsárlón and Fellsfjara - Restrictions and permissions

Drones are not allowed between April 15th and July 15th due to bird protection.

At other times of the year, time of day restrictions apply, which vary depending on the time of year and the sunrise/sunset.

During the following times of the day, drones can be used in the area (see map to the side) and a special permit not needed:

  • July 15th to September 21st – before 09:00 or after 18:00.
  • September 22nd to October 21st – before 10:00 or after 17:00.
  • October 22ndto November 21st – before 11:00 or after 15:00.
  • November 22nd to January 21st – before 12:00 or after 14:00.
  • January 22nd to February 21st – before 11:00 or after 15:00.
  • February 22nd to March 21st – before 10:00 or after 17:00.
  • March 22nd to April 15th – before 09:00 or after 18:00.

Helicopter traffic can always be expected in the Jökulsárlón area. Remotely controlled aircraft must always give way to other air traffic, cf. regulation no. 990/2017.

There is generally a loft of visitor traffic in the red shaded area on the map on the right. The use of drones in that area is therefore always prohibited according to regulation no. 990/2017.

Category V: Dettifoss (western side) - Restrictions and permissions

The use of drones at Dettifoss on the western side of the river is permitted at certain times of the day, but elsewhere in Jökulsárgljúfur the use of drones for recreational purposes is not permitted.

The use of drones is permitted at the following times of the day, which vary depending on the time of year and the sunrise/sunset:1. mars til 30. apríl – fyrir kl. 10:00 eða eftir kl. 16:00.

  • March 1st to April 30th – before 10:00 or after 16:00.
  • May 1st to August 31st – before 8:00 or after 18:00.
  • September 1st to October 31st – before 10:00 or after 16:00
  • November 1st to February 29th – no time-of-day restrictions, but general conditions apply.

Within the park boundaries at Dettifoss, you may only fly over the canyon itself. Due to bird protection, it is not allowed to fly further north than the northernmost viewing platform west of Dettifoss (where the red shaded area on the map begins). The eastern bank of Jökulsá is a natural monument run by the Environment Agency of Iceland (shaded green) and south of Dettifoss is privately owned land. On the footpaths to the waterfalls, general conditions for drone flight apply, including a ban on flying over crowds.

Attention is drawn to the fact that in the case of the use of drones in search or rescue operations, the police and rescue teams do not need to obtain a permit for their work. However, it is requested that the staff of the national park be notified of such, as the case may be, afterwards.