New rules for drones in Oregon, Coast state parks coming next summer

Love them or hate them, Oregon’s outdoor drones are here to stay.

But for the first time, Oregon officials plan to develop rules governing where unmanned planes can fly with new rules expected to be in place by next summer.

A newly formed rules committee will examine where drone pilots can take off and land in state parks and the Oregon coast, taking into account the impact of the aircraft on wildlife and privacy as it progresses. as the number of drones continues to increase.

“Our hope is to have our recommendations ready for approval by February or April so that they can be in place for the 2022 summer season,” said Chris Havel, spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, to the Statesman Journal in June.

The committee reviewing the new rules includes drone pilots and advocates, park users and aviation officials, according to a press release. A full list of members can be found at the bottom of this story.

The first committee meeting is scheduled to meet virtually on Thursday, November 10. The public can register to watch the meeting at: No public comments will be collected at this meeting, but a comment period will follow the publication of the proposed rules. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission would finalize the rules.

The rules would only apply to the Oregon coast and state parks, which are managed by the OPRD. Other areas, such as federal lands managed by the US Forest Service and the National Park Service, have their own rules for take-off and landing locations, and the Federal Aviation Administration ultimately manages the airspace in which drones enter.

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What led to this need?

The number of drones flying over Oregon’s most scenic spots, particularly the Oregon coast, has been increasing for years, leading to increased conflict between unmanned planes and everything from shorebirds to shorebirds. nesters to climbers.

“This is something that is becoming a concern, not in the majority of parks, but really in the most scenic – places like Smith Rock, Silver Falls and on the Oregon coast,” Katie Gauthier, policy coordinator at the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the Statesman Journal reported in 2019.

The beauty of Oregon's natural spaces has attracted photographers for years.  Drones are increasingly in the hands of many of these photographers.  As a result, the Oregon State Parks Department plans to introduce legislation in 2021 that would allow them to create a set of rules governing drones in state parks.

At Smith Rock State Park, drones crashed into rocky cliffs right next to the climbers. On a nudist beach in Rooster Rock State Park, a drone with a camera has been spotted. And on the coast, drones have chased endangered seabirds from their nesting sites, allowing predators to melt and steal their eggs, US Fish and Wildlife Service officials said.

Beyond that, drones are often seen as intrusive and loud, spoiling the outdoor experience.

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The problem is, Oregon has no authority over the airspace – only where people take off and land with drones. And legally, they needed Oregon Senate legislation to start making those rules. This happened in the last session with the passage of Senate Bill 109.

Drone pilots also praised the creation of simple rules, saying Oregon’s lack of rules makes it difficult to know where pilots can fly. Drones are a common tool for hobbyists and filmmakers, supporting local economies, as well as an important tool for search and rescue. They’re not going anywhere, and defenders say that by creating a good set of rules, it’s a win for everyone.

“The current situation is confusing,” Kenji Sugahara, chief pilot of A-Cam Aerials and national and federal drone policy adviser, told the Statesman Journal in 2019. “There is no great resource for show where it’s good to fly. Bad information is spread on social media. There is confusion between state, national and even county parks. Even drone apps are often bogus. ”

Sugahara is one of the members of the newly formed Rules Committee.

Overall, the goal is to establish simpler rules that allow pilots and the public to use public lands safely.

“The committee will also discuss any financial or economic effect of the proposed rules on businesses, local governments or other stakeholders,” the OPRD said in a press release.

List of committee members to date

This is a list of members who have agreed to participate in the Drone Regulatory Advisory Committee.

  • Kenji sugahara, commercial drone pilot; Member of the FAA Advisory Board, UAS policy expert,
  • Heather peck, Oregon Department of Aviation
  • Laurel Hillmann, OPRD Ocean Shores Specialist
  • Matt Davey, OPRD Park Manager – Smith Rock
  • Mike Davis, Areo Drone Corp; UAS Columbia Gorge CC instructor; drone pilot
  • Sarah Lathrop, State Aviation Coordinator, Oregon Department of Forestry
  • Brady Callahan, Head of the SIG OPRD program and SUAS coordinator
  • Robert Roth, Deputy Director of Aviation, Pacific Northwest Region, Oregon / Washington State Office, Fire and Aviation, US Forest Service
  • Arica Sears, Assistant Director, Oregon Coast Visitors Association

Zach Urness has been an outdoor reporter in Oregon for 13 years and hosts the Explore Oregon podcast. Urness can be contacted at [email protected] or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.

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