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7 reasons you need to take a drone trek to the Arctic

This is Part 3 of a 3-Part Series about my summer flying drones in the Arctic Circle. For Part 1, the Arctic Circle drone packing list, visit this link. For Part 2, tips for flying drones in the Arctic Circle visit this link.

By now you’ve read my Arctic Circle drone packing list. You’ve read my tips for flying drones in the Arctic. But for the third installment — I’m going to convince you why you need to actually go to the Arctic to make it happen. Here are 7 reasons why you need to fly your drone in the Arctic Circle:

  1. Little to no manned air traffic to worry about. If your city is near an airport, you likely can’t fly there. Then there are heliports to worry about (yield to manned traffic at all times). Luckily, the rules most countries enforce about not flying near airports doesn’t apply in the Arctic Circle, because there won’t be one. Arctic Watch Wildernerss Lodge, which is where I had my drone adventure, is only accessible via a single, privately owned airstrip. That airstrip typically only sees one manned flight a week — carrying campers, removing the headache of having to coordinate with air-traffic control.

2. Amazing views that you won’t get anywhere else. For my specific Arctic adventure, I went to Somerset Island’s Arctic Watch, a world-famous beluga whale hot spot. Beluga whales come to Somerset Island’s inlet to shed skin in July, making it a dream for drone pilots, with the relatively shallow water creating a unique vantage for aerial photos.

3. No worries about crashing into trees, buildings or people. I fly my drones extremely conservatively, and am often hesitant to fly in my own city, San Francisco, just because there are so many people and buildings around. In the Arctic, there are literally no trees. Arctic Watch also caps the number of guests at about two dozen people at any given time. Add that to the camp staff, and there are never more than about four dozen people on the island at once — meaning you don’t need to worry about crowds.

4. Drone laws in Canada are very straightforward: Depending on where in the Arctic Circle you are flying, you likely won’t run into many legal restrictions around flying drones. I spent my Arctic adventure on Somerset Island, which is part of Canada. Luckily, Canada drone laws are incredibly straightforward and reasonable. Recreational pilots need to follow common sense rules, such as staying below 90 meters (about 300 feet), within your line of sight, during the day, outside of controlled airspace and away from airports. Drones also must be clearly marked with your name, address and telephone number.

If you fly your drone for fun and it weighs 35 kg (about 77 pounds) or less, you do not need special permission from Transport Canada.

If you are flying for work or research, the rules make it slightly more work, but the process is still straightforward. You’ll likely need a Special Flight Operations Certificate and liability insurance. Get more information on flying for commercial purposes in Canada here.

5. 24/7 daylight! Feeling the need to fly your drone at 3 a.m.? I thought so. If you’re visiting the Arctic Circle, odds are you will be visiting in the summer. Now the Canadian government has a rule that you must only fly your drone during the day. Luckily, the sun never sets on Somerset Island during the summer, which means you could theoretically drone 24/7.

6. A completely new and unique experience. Ever taken a follow-me aerial shot of someone biking on sea ice? How about gone on a hike and discovered a completely hidden valley? The landscapes and adventures you can experience in the Arctic are unbelievable. Traveling with Quark expeditions made it easy because all the planning was done for me — I just had to show up with my drone and the day was taken care of for me — all the way down to the delicious food, too!

7. Unreal landscapes: So photographing your local baseball diamond with your drone has gotten a bit old? The landscapes on Somerset Island are unreal. It’s bleak. It looks like Mars. There are intricate patterns in the foliage growing on the sides of the valley walls. There is sea ice, jagged cliffs, wide open plains and more. It’s such a surreal place — unlike anywhere you’ve been before.

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