Top Tips For Travelling to Iceland With Your Drone

Top Tips For Travelling to Iceland With Your Drone

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Lush green valleys in Iceland - Photo by Iurie Belegurschi

So, you’ve decided to take your drone to Iceland to explore the aerial photography possibilities in the Land of Fire and Ice. Great!

But there are probably still a few things you aren’t sure about, from travel arrangements and accessories to airport security and the rules surrounding drone flights in Iceland.

Practice Before You Set Off

You might have heard that Iceland is an ideal place to fly your drone and capture awesome aerial video, mainly because it’s sparsely populated and packed with spectacular scenery. Oh, and also that there’s nothing to crash into, so it’s some kind of beginners’ paradise. Well, the first part of that is certainly true.  

Lava fields in Iceland - Photo by Iurie BelegurschiLava Fields. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

As for the second part, flying in Iceland is actually more challenging than you might expect for a number of reasons. For starters, the weather conditions can change in a second. On top of that, a lack of places to charge up means you’ll have to fly efficiently if you want to make the most of your time in the sky.

So how should new pilots approach taking off in Iceland? The answer is: with caution. If you haven’t flown that much before, it’s important that you familiarise yourself with your drone before you set off.

So it’s simple: Practice at home, become the best pilot you can be and then take on Iceland. Trying to learn the controls once you arrive here is a guaranteed way to waste your precious time!  

Get a Decent Case

Decent drones are expensive and if you’re taking yours on vacation, you’ll want to be sure that it arrives, like you do, in one piece!

So that means finding a case that keeps it safe and cosy during transit.

Aerial Photography in Iceland - Photo by Iurie BelegurschiThis Extraordinary World. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

You might even want to buy two cases: a heavy one for keeping your drone secure during transport, and a second, lighter case that you can easily carry if you’re hiking or hunting for that perfect spot.

The case you choose will depend on the drone – just make sure you have room for spare batteries and any other accessories you might need.

Which brings us to…

Take the Right Accessories to Lighten the Load

Choosing the right accessories is an important part of planning for an aerial photography trip in Iceland.

Drone Photography in Iceland - Photo by Iurie BelegurschiPatterns Below. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

You should have two priorities in mind when selecting extra gear: portability and usability. Is the item you’re thinking of taking going to improve the quality of your aerial photography without weighing you down too much? If yes, then bring it along!

There are a few obvious accessories that every drone pilot should have, especially when on the road. The most obvious is spare batteries.

In Iceland more than anywhere else, spare batteries are a must. You might spend the whole day out on the road, so stopping to charge up isn’t really an option. If possible, take a portable charger or an adapter for your car, which will allow you to drive and recharge at the same time. Do whatever it takes to keep your drone in the sky as long as possible!

Highlands in Iceland - Photo by Iurie BelegurschiMountains Like Ice Cream. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

So what else might you want to take on your Icelandic drone adventure? Another nice creative tool is a set of neutral density filters. These are easily attached onto the camera of your drone and will give you more flexibility when adjusting your settings in different types of lighting.

Sometimes in Iceland, you’ll want to shoot above the snow and ice or in bright sunshine. Neutral density filters are a great way to stay in control of those variables.

We’ve mentioned portable chargers already, but what about portable storage solutions? If you’re sick of taking your laptop along with you on outdoor shoots, then why not get a smart hard drive?

Asbyrgi Canyon - Photo by Iurie BelegurschiAsbyrgi Canyon. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

A good example is the DJI Copilot from LaCie, which swiftly backs up your footage through a USB cable or memory card. The best part? You don’t need a laptop to act as the medium for the data transfer – it has its own power.

One final accessory that could come in handy? Spare props. If you’re careful then you won’t need them, but sometimes a small crash can leave you grounded for good unless you have spare propeller blades. Take a set with you just in case!

Taking a Drone Through Airport Security

One question that’s asked a lot by drone pilots is ‘How do I take my drone through airport security?’

Dyrholaey - Photo by Iurie BelegurschiMidnight Sun over Dyrholaey. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

The answer is simple: in your hand luggage. This means you’ll get the peace of mind that comes with keeping your drone with you at all times.

Great, so how about taking it THROUGH security? Usually, it’s fine to just pass your drone case straight through the scanner. These machines are becoming more common than ever before as travellers and photographers adopt drone technology, so you aren’t going to raise any eyebrows.  

However, different airports have different policies on small electronic items. You might have to take it out of the case completely. It’s best to ask a member of staff for guidance.

One quick tip? Purchase a couple of non-flammable soft cases for your spare batteries if possible.

Apply in Advance for Permits at Sensitive Locations

All drone pilots and aerial photographers want to fly in Iceland for the same reasons: Outrageous scenery, all kinds of natural spectacles and awesome shots that will enhance any portfolio.

Glacial rivers - Photo by Iurie BelegurschiRiver Tongue. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

However, many of Iceland’s most popular locations are sensitive for two reasons. First of all, waterfalls, glacier lagoons, national parks and cliffs are often home to native wildlife that the Environment Agency is keen to protect.

Second: Popular spots are by definition going to be busy with tourists and other photographers. This means that flying there could involve breaking the Iceland Transport Authority’s drone regulations, which state that you can’t fly above groups of people. It’s also important to respect other people’s enjoyment and peace. So if you want to fly at some of these sensitive locations, you’re going to need permission. Fortunately, you can apply for an exemption from the Environment Agency for certain spots. For national parks, you may have to contact the park directly.

It’s best to arrange your exemption before you arrive in Iceland. It’s easy enough to sort out online, although you will have to pay a small fee.  

Think About Insurance

Taking a drone abroad with you is a great opportunity to capture your holiday moments, but it also comes with a small risk. Crashing a drone isn’t hard to do and, as you probably well know, they don’t come cheap.  

Highland oasis - Photo by Iurie BelegurschiThe Highland Oasis. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

So definitely consider arranging travel insurance that covers your drone before you head to Iceland.

Aside from that, there are a number of drone-specific insurers who will cover your drone and only your drone for a small price. Check out Coverdrone, for example.

So there you have it: our top tips for travelling to Iceland with your drone. Follow them closely and you’ll come back with lifelong memories, loads of new skills and priceless footage!

About the author:  Malek Murison is a tech journalist based in London. You can find more of his work on his website or by following him on Twitter.

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