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What are the rules if you want to fly a drone in Norway?

Drones are often used by the general public in Norway, as well as experts in rescue operations and inspections of facilities in rough terrain. But what are the rules?

Drone in air
These are the current rules for operating drones in Norway. Photo by Jason Blackeye / Unsplash

As the security situation in Europe deteriorates, the risk of drones being used for espionage and similar activities has increased substantially in Norway.

In the last month, there have been numerous drone sightings in the vicinity of gas and power plants (such as the Kårstø plant in Tysvær, the Johan Sverdrup oil field, and other offshore facilities in the North Sea) and airports (such as the Andøya Airport in Andeness, Sola Airport close to Stavanger, and Bergen Flesland Airport) in Norway.

READ MORE: Why Norway is asking the public to be vigilant about drones

Furthermore, multiple Russians have been arrested after being caught with drones or photographic equipment in the last month.

Norway has implemented sanctions prohibiting Russians from flying drones in the country, and several restrictions govern flying drones in general.

With drones being a matter of intense debate in Norwegian society at the moment, we take a look at the current rules for operating these crafts.

Rules for operating drones in Norway

In 2021, common European Union rules for drone flight came into force, also affecting the legal framework in Norway.

There is no longer a distinction between hobby flying and professional flying, and the new rules aim to ensure increased privacy, among other things.

According to a recent overview by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), Norway has multiple rules in place for people who want to fly drones lighter than 25 kilograms.

For the vast majority of drones, you need to register as an operator in the drone registry (you can do so on the Civil Aviation Authority’s webpage – in Norwegian), take an online course, pass an exam, and have valid insurance in place if you want to fly a drone.

Note that there are some exceptions: these rules don’t apply if your drone is lighter than 250 grams and doesn’t have a camera or if you only plan to fly it indoors.

The Civil Aviation Authority has created an interactive guide so that you can easily find out which rules apply to your situation and drone. You can find it here (in Norwegian).

Furthermore, you must stay clear of no-drone zones and keep a minimum distance of 5 kilometres from airports. Also, remember that flying drones over the capital of Oslo or Norway’s prisons is not allowed.

Some Norwegian towns, national parks, and protected areas have their own rules for the use of drones.

For example, it is forbidden to fly a drone at Kjeragbolten, Besseggen in Jotunheimen, and Dovrefjell. On the other hand, it is legal to fly a drone at Trolltunga and Preikestolen even though these areas are in protected zones.

In addition to the rules mentioned above, you must always be able to see the drone from where you’re standing, and you can’t fly a drone higher than 120 metres from the ground.

You also can’t fly drones close to other people or over large groups of people. If your drone is over 500 grams, you need to keep 150 metres distance from buildings.

For a complete overview of other rules surrounding the use of drones, you can visit the Norwegian Data Protection Authority’s website here (in Norwegian).

Tighter rules on the way

At the moment, Norway’s Civil Aviation Authority is considering introducing stricter requirements for drone operators, which could also limit areas where drones can fly.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre recently said that Norway has to consider the new security reality and implement new measures related to drones if the situation calls for it.

Eirik Solheim, NRK Beta’s technology adviser, believes that new restrictions could lead to fewer drones in the air, making it easier to detect illegal activities.

However, he points out that many drones are small and difficult to detect.

“The most advanced military drones can be as light as 20 grams and have a range of multiple kilometres. We believe that intelligence services also own such drones. Restrictions don’t help in such cases – you can’t see such a drone when it’s 10 metres in the air,” Solheim says.

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For members


Could Norway end up in direct conflict with Russia?

The security crisis in Europe shows no signs of dying down, and Russia's aggression in Ukraine is also affecting Norway's national security. Here's what experts think about the latest developments.

Could Norway end up in direct conflict with Russia?

Norway raised its military readiness earlier this week due to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the security policy situation the war has led to in Europe.

Speaking at a recent press conference, Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre warned that the country was faced with “the most serious security policy situation in decades.”

While the decision to increase the national preparedness level was not based on any direct threat against Norway, according to Støre, the war in Europe and increased tensions are shaping domestic security policy.

In the past few weeks, numerous reports have been about illegal drone activity in the vicinity of strategic objects and energy installations in Norway. Several Russian citizens have been arrested in connection with such activity.

More recently a Russian was citizen detained on suspicion of working under a false identity as a Russian spy at the University of Tromsø.

Neighbourly relations between Oslo and Moscow are at a low point. But is there any real chance that Norway will end up in direct conflict with Russia?

Norway’s role in Russia’s war of aggression

Monday’s decision to increase military preparedness in the country came as no surprise to experts.

“The Norwegian government’s decision to increase the level of military preparedness did not come as a surprise. The decision was taken against the backdrop of various external developments that may adversely affect state and societal security in Norway.

“Key among these are, of course, Russia’s war in Ukraine and the general deterioration of the security situation in Europe,” Kristian Åtland, a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, told The Local.

On the other hand, Tormod Heier, a professor at the Norwegian Defense University College, told The Local that Norway now has a very exposed role in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“The increased level of preparedness is clear evidence of Norway’s increasingly exposed role in Russia’s Ukraine war. Right now, Norway is probably one of the most crucial actors in the broader conflict in Europe.

“In part, this is because north Norway is a key provider of military intelligence to US and NATO forces, which are deeply concerned about Russia’s submarine-launched nuclear missiles on the Kola Peninsula, some 40 to 120 kilometres off the Norwegian-Russian border in Finnmark county. And partly also because the sea bed outside South Norway has become the most prominent energy reservoir for European gas supply throughout the coming winter.

“Together, the roles of supplying the United States and Europe with intelligence and gas suggests that Norway has become a more valuable target on Russia’s potential ‘target list,'” Heier explained.

Russia and Norway have a long tradition of interacting in the High North – the northern regions of Norway, the Svalbard archipelago, the island of Jan Mayen, and the waters between the Greenland Sea and the Pechora Sea.

Åtland noted that, as things now stand in the High North, it is important for Norway to remain vigilant in the region.

“The High North has traditionally been an important arena for interaction between Norway and Russia. In the current security environment, marked by an increased level of tension between Russia and the West, it is important that we remain vigilant about the risks that we face in this region, including so-called hybrid threats,” the expert stated.

On his end, Heier accentuated that Norwegian and Russian forces have a common interest in not accelerating the tensions in the Barents Sea region.

“The security margins between Russian and NATO forces in the High North are shrinking. This is because Russia has never been more vulnerable since World War II; its conventional forces are suffering heavy losses in Ukraine, while Russia’s key rival, the United States, is back in Europe and the High North with a lot of weapons and a firm leadership – adding to this is Sweden’s and Finland’s slide towards NATO, and the plausible rise of the German Bundeswehr.

“In this context, Russia’s military chain-of-command is likely characterised by some paranoia, leading commanders to pursue strategic deterrence exercises and ‘show-of-force.’ In this tense period, Norwegian and Russian forces have a common interest in not accelerating the tension in the Barents Sea region. Preventing a negative spill-over effect from the Ukraine War to the High North is crucial for both parties.

“This leads to the conclusion that professional and predictable behaviour may still be expected from Russian forces as well as from Norwegian and allied forces operating out from north Norway,” Heier said.

The odds of Norway ending up in direct conflict with Russia

With that being said, what is the risk of Norway and Russia engaging in direct conflict, and are there any immediate threats that pose a significant risk to Norway’s defence?

Experts seem to agree with Prime Minister Støre’s Monday assessment.

“As the Prime Minister pointed out at the press conference, the risk of a direct military confrontation between Norway and Russia in the High North is still low, and there is no immediate threat to Norway’s land territory. But Norway plays an increasingly important role as a European energy supplier, with all that this entails.

“In the current situation, it makes sense to enhance situational awareness and step up the protection of vulnerable energy installations and infrastructure,” Åtland said.

Heier agrees, noting that the “odds are extremely low for a direct conflict between Norwegian and Russian forces.”

“On one hand, it is in both parties interest to maintain stability in the Barents Sea region. On the other, Russia has no military capacity to open up a new front or conflict while being in a quagmire in Europe’s second-largest state, Ukraine.

“Furthermore, any conflict between Russian and Norwegian forces is likely to escalate into a larger operation with US forces getting close to Russia’s most important foreign policy instrument – the Northern Fleet’s nuclear force,” Heier concluded.

Russia criticises Norway’s defense policy

On Wednesday, the Russian government announced Norway is pursuing a policy that will lead to an escalation in the Arctic and “the final destruction of Russian-Norwegian relations”.

The accusations were put forward by spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in the Russian Foreign Ministry, according to the Tass news agency.

“Foreign military bases have been established in Norway on a permanent basis,” Zakharova claimed on Wednesday.

“Infrastructure has been modernised, modern equipment is being bought in, and Oslo is now among the most active supporters of NATO’s involvement in the Arctic,” she added.

Zakharova claimed that Norway is deliberately following “a destructive course towards the escalation of tensions in the Euro-Arctic region and the final destruction of Russian-Norwegian relations”.

Furthermore, she said that Russia is always open to dialogue but that all unfriendly actions will be met with a “timely and adequate response”.