Oregon drone laws are a hot topic right now. With the growing use of drones for recreational and commercial purposes, there is much confusion as to what you can do with your drone in Oregon.
In this blog post, LucidCam will provide an overview of the law and answer some questions about how it might affect you. This article is not meant to serve as legal advice or be exhaustive on all aspects of drone laws in Oregon;
An unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is an unmanned flying machine commonly called a drone and all its associated elements. This includes communication links and components that control the machine.
Oregon Drone Laws
837.310 Restrictions and exceptions
A law enforcement agency cannot operate an unmanned airplane system, acquire information by the operation, or disclose information obtained through the operation, except as provided in ORS 837.310 – 837.345.
Oregon law enforcement can only use drones in one or more of these circumstances: They obtain a written warrant specifying the drone’s use period, which cannot exceed 30 days, they believe there are exigent circumstances exist in the commission of a crime that makes it unreasonable to wait for the warrant, and they have given written consent.
The individual searching for the property should state that they are only using the drone to train or to perform search and rescue operations in an emergency.
837.320 Authorized usage upon issuance warrant; exigent circumstances
A law enforcement agency may operate an unmanned aircraft system, acquire information through the operation of an unmanned aircraft system, or disclose information acquired through the operation of an unmanned aircraft system, if:
(a) A warrant authorizing the use of UAS is issued; or
(b) A law enforcement agency has probable cause of believing that a person has been convicted, is committing, or is about to be convicted and that there are exigent circumstances that would make it impossible for them to obtain a warrant authorizing the use of UAS.
The period of unmanned aircraft system operation must be specified in a warrant authorizing its use. In no event may a warrant provide for the operation of an unmanned aircraft system for a period of more than 30 days. A court can renew a warrant for a period of 30 days if it is moved and there is a good cause. [2013 c.686.SS3; 2015 (2015) c.315.SS3]
837.330 Written consent.
A law enforcement agency may operate an unmanned aircraft system for the purpose of acquiring information about an individual, or about the individual’s property, if the individual has given written consent to the use of an unmanned aircraft system for those purposes. [2013 c.686-SS4; 2015 (2015) c.315-SS4]
837.335 Search and Rescue; Use in Emergencies
An unmanned aircraft system may be operated by a law enforcement agency for search and rescue activities, assistance in an emergency situation, or during a state emergency declared by the Governor.
837.340 Criminal investigations
A law enforcement agency may operate an unmanned aircraft system, acquire information through the operation of an unmanned aircraft system, or disclose information acquired through the operation of an unmanned aircraft system, for the purpose of reconstruction of a specific crime scene or accident scene, or similar physical assessment, related to a specific criminal investigation
An unmanned aircraft system may be used by law enforcement agencies for training purposes.
837.360 Restrictions, civil penalties, registration; fees; rules
- Public bodies cannot operate unmanned aircraft systems in the airspace above this state without first registering them with the Oregon Department of Aviation.
- A public body that violates subsection (1) of the section may be subject to civil penalties of up $10,000 by the Oregon Department of Aviation.
- A public body may not use evidence obtained through the unmanned aircraft system’s misuse in violation of subsection (1)of this section is not admissible in any judicial or administrative proceeding and may not be used to establish reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed.
- The Oregon Department of Aviation will establish a registry of UAS operated by public entities and may charge a fee sufficient to reimburse the department for the maintenance of the registry.
- For registration of UAS, the Oregon Department of Aviation will require the following information:
(a) Name of the public entity that controls or operates UAS.
(b) Contact information and names of individuals involved in operating the unmanned aircraft system.
(c) Identifying information for UAS as required by department rule.
2. An annual report must be submitted by any public body that registers UAS in accordance with this section to the Oregon Department of Aviation.
(a) Summarizes frequency of unmanned aircraft system use by public bodies during the preceding calendar years;
(b) A summary of the purposes for the unmanned aircraft systems that were used by the public in the preceding calendar year.
(c) Indicates how the public can access policies and procedures established under section 7 of the 2016 Act.
3. The State Aviation Board can adopt any rules that are compatible with federal laws or regulations for the registration of unmanned aircraft systems.
Section 9 of HB4066 stated:
On January 1, 2017, section 7 of this 2016 Act and amendments to ORS837.360 by section 8 became effective.
Any action that is necessary for a public body to be able to exercise all duties, functions, and powers granted to it by section 7 and amendments to section 837.360 may be taken before subsection (1).
837.365 Unmanned weaponized aircraft systems
Unmanned aircraft systems that are capable of firing bullets or projectiles, or any other operation or recklessly operate or cause to operate an unmanned plane system in such a way that it functions as a dangerous weapon under ORS 161.015 cannot be operated or caused to be operated by a person.
Violations can be classified as a class B, C, or D felony depending on whether they resulted from the drone inflicting physical injury to another person.
The rule does not apply if
- The person uses the unmanned aircraft system to release, discharge, propel or eject anonlethal projectile for purposes other than to injure or kill persons or animals;
- The person uses the unmanned aircraft system for nonrecreational purposes in compliance with specific authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration;
- The person notifies the Oregon Department of Aviation, Oregon State Police, and any other agency that issues permits or licenses for the activity requiring the use of an unmanned airplane system of the time and place at which the person intends to use the unmanned plane system capable of releasing or propelling a projectile, at least five days prior to the person uses it.
- If the person plans to use an unmanned aircraft system capable of releasing or discharging, propelling, or ejecting projectiles in an area open to the public; the person must give reasonable notice to the general public about the time and place at which they intend to use the unmanned aviation system.
- The person maintains a liability insurance policy in an amount not less than $1 million that covers injury resulting from use of the unmanned aircraft system.
837.374 Unsanctioned Interference with an aircraft
1. A person commits a Class A violation if the person possesses or controls an unmanned aircraft system and recklessly causes the unmanned aircraft system to:
a. Direct a laser at an aircraft while the aircraft is in the air;
b. Crash into an airplane while it is still in flight; or
c. To prevent an aircraft from taking off or landing
2. A Class A Misdemeanor is committed by a person who possesses or controls unmanned aircraft systems and intentionally or knowingly causes them to:
a. Direct a laser at an aircraft while the aircraft is in the air;
b. Crash into an airplane while it is still in flight; or
c. To prevent an aircraft from taking off or landing.
3. Notwithstanding subsection (1) of this section, a person commits a Class A misdemeanor if the person violates subsection (1) of this section and the person has one or more convictions under subsection (1) of this section at the time of the offense.
4. The court may, but not as a substitute for any sentence, order forfeiture of the unmanned airplane system and declare the unmanned system used in the offense contraband upon a person’s second or subsequent conviction. [2016 c.72.SS5; 2019. c.337.SS1]
837.375 Interference in an unmanned aircraft system; unauthorized controls
The owner of the unmanned aircraft system is liable for $5,000 in damages, in addition to all other remedies allowed by law. In action under this section, the court will award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing plaintiff.
837.380. Owners of real property; Attorney General.
Oregon law prohibits anyone from flying drones over property more than once. However, the drone must be flown at least once over the property, and the property owner has notified the drone operator that they do not wish the drone to fly over their property. However,
The property owner does not have a cause of action if the drone takes off or lands or is in the flight path or control of an airport runway. If the property owner files a cause-of-action and prevails, they can recover treble damages as well as attorneys’ fees.
837.385 Preemption by local laws regulating unmanned aircraft systems.
Except as expressly authorized by state statute, the authority to regulate the ownership or operation of unmanned aircraft systems is vested solely in the Legislative Assembly. Except as expressly authorized by state statute, a local government, as defined ORS 174.116, may not enact an ordinance or resolution that regulates the ownership or operation of unmanned aircraft systems or otherwise engage in the regulation of the ownership or operation of unmanned aircraft systems.
837.995 Penalties for crimes involving unmanned aircraft systems
1. A Class A felony is committed by a person who possesses or controls unmanned aircraft systems and intends to cause or attempt to cause the unmanned aircraft systems to:
- While the aircraft is still in flight, fire a bullet or other projectile at it.
- Point a laser at an airplane while it is still in flight; or
- A crash into an aircraft that is already in flight.
2. A Class C felony is committed by anyone who intentionally interferes with or gains unauthorized control over an unmanned aircraft system licensed under the Federal Aviation Administration or operated by the Armed Forces of the United States, as defined by ORS 352.313. This includes any agency of the United States, a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency.
HB 4066 Critical Infrastructure Facility
“Critical infrastructure facility” means any of the following facilities, if completely enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier that is obviously designed to exclude intruders, or if marked with a sign conspicuously posted on the property that indicates that entry is forbidden:
- A petroleum or alumina refinery
- A substation, switching station, or electrical power generating facility, electrical control center
- the rubber manufacturing facility, chemical, or polymer chemicals.
- A water intake structure, water treatment facility, wastewater treatment plant, or pump station.
- Natural gas compressor station
- A liquid natural gas terminal or storage facility
- A telecommunications central switching office;
- A port, railroad switching yard, trucking terminus, or other freight transportation facility.
- A gas processing plant is a plant that processes, treats, or fractionates natural gas.
- A transmission facility that is used by federally licensed radio and television stations;
- An electric arc furnace is used to make steel in a steelmaking facility.
- Dam that has been classified by the Water Resources Department as high-hazard
- Any section of an aboveground oil, chemical, or gas pipeline that is enclosed with a fence or other physical barrier clearly designed to keep out intruders;
- A correctional facility or law enforcement facility.
A person commits a Class A violation if the person intentionally or knowingly:
- An unmanned aircraft system is operated at an altitude of not more than 400 feet above the ground level.
- Unmanned aircraft systems can contact a critical infrastructure facility. This includes any person or object within the facility.
Violations are not applicable to:
- The federal government.
- Public body.
- An agency for law enforcement.
- A person under contract with, or acting on behalf of, the federal government, public bodies, or law enforcement agencies.
- The owner or operator of critical infrastructure facilities.
- The owner or occupant of critical infrastructure facilities must have given their prior written consent.
- The owner of the property where the critical infrastructure facility is located.
- The owner or occupant of the property where the critical infrastructure facility is situated must have given their prior written consent.
- A person operating an unmanned aircraft system for commercial purposes, in accordance in compliance with authorization granted by the Federal Aviation Administration
498.128 No drones allowed to pursue wildlife
The State Fish and Wildlife Commission will adopt rules that prohibit drones from being used for the following purposes:
- Drones can be used to aid in hunting, angling and trapping by harassing, tracking, locating, or scouting wildlife.
- Interfering with the legal act of an individual who is angling, hunting, or trapping.
HB2481 Law enforcement equipment.
SECTION 1. (1) A law enforcement agency may not receive any of the following property from a military equipment surplus program operated by the federal government:
(a) Unmanned aircraft systems that are armored or weaponized;
Federal Drone Laws in Oregon
These drone laws, which apply to all states in the U.S., including Oregon, were created by the federal government.
Oregon allows commercial drone pilots to fly in the state. For work/business purposes, you must follow the FAA’s Part 107 Small UAS Rule. Part 107 includes passing the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Test in order to receive a Remote Pilot Certificate.
Oregon allows hobbyists to fly drones. The FAA requires you to pass the Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) in order to fly drones for pleasure or fun. The FAA also requires you to adhere to the rules for recreational model aircraft. You will need to pay $5 to register your drone if it weighs in at more than 0.55 lbs (250g). Additional rules apply to altitude and airspace, as well as keeping your drone in line of sight while you fly.
You can fly a drone in Oregon as a government employee (i.e., for a police or fire department), or you may operate under the Part 107 rule of the FAA, or you must obtain a federal Certificate of Authorization.
Please note: This page is intended to be used as an informational tool and not as a substitute for legal advice.
State Drone Laws for Oregon
These drone laws applied to Oregon’s entire state and were established by the Oregon Legislative Assembly.
The Oregon Department of Transportation reports that there are four laws in Oregon regarding drone use.
HB 3047 // 2017.
This amendment amends the law against UAS weaponization and makes it a class-C felony to fire bullet or projectile from a weaponized UAS.
UAS allows law enforcement to reconstruct accident scenes.
Prohibits the use or reckless use of UAS to harass or annoy private property owners or occupants.
HB 4066 // 2016.
This law changes the definitions of UAS and makes it an A misdemeanor for a person to operate a weaponized UAS. It also regulates drone use by public bodies. The law also prohibits UAS from being used near critical infrastructure such as correctional facilities.
SB 5702 // 2016
This law outlines the fees required to register public UAS.
HB 2710 // 2013.
- This allows a law enforcement agency to operate drones with a warrant. It also allows them to use the drone for other enumerated reasons, including training.
- The Oregon Department of Aviation (DOA) must register any drone operated by a public entity. This registry shall be kept by the public body.
- New crimes and civil penalties are created for mounting weapons on drones or interfering with public drones.
- Allows for landowners or those that legally occupy land, under certain conditions, to bring legal action against a public body for operating a drone under a height of 400 ft about their property.
- The DOA must inform legislative committees about the status of federal regulations. Private UAV operators should also be required to register in the same manner as other aircraft.
The Part 107 regulations of the FAA apply to all drone pilots who operate commercially in Oregon. This guide provides information about how the FAA certifies commercial drone pilots.
Local Drone Laws Oregon
These drone laws are only applicable to certain areas, cities, or counties in Oregon. They were created by different authorities.
City of Portland–Municipal Law // 2007.
This ordinance prohibits the use of drones within or above any city park, except where designated by the Director.
Oregon Metro Parks–Park Rules // 2018
The park ordinance prohibits drone use within the boundaries of any Oregon Metro Park. This is except for areas designated for this purpose.
Do you have to register your drone in Oregon?
Oregon law allows you to fly a drone as a hobbyist. You must register your drone with FAA. Follow the FAA’s Model Aircraft rules.
Is it possible to fly a drone along the Oregon coast?
Drone use on Oregon’s Central Coast is allowed with some restrictions. They cannot be flown in parks or beaches that are not home to wildlife.
Is drone use allowed on private property?
It is still legal to record footage from a drone while it is flying above private property. These regulations apply to commercial drone operators.
They include being registered with CASA, requiring an operator’s certification, and even registering the drone at CASA. However, these only apply to drones that weigh more than 2kg.
What happens if you fly your drone higher than 400 feet?
Near-misses between aircraft are most common above 400 feet. At high altitudes, you could lose your drone. You should keep your drone in your direct line of sight.
It can be difficult to see your drone above 400 feet. You could face arrest or a fine depending on how high you fly above 400 feet.
Can the FAA track my drone?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), just before Christmas, published a proposal that included regulations that would enable them to track almost every drone in U.S. airspace at any time.
The information in this article should be enough to get you started on the path of understanding how drone laws apply to your business. If you find yourself with more questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us for further clarification or additional help! We hope that by reading the blog post conclusion, you will have found some helpful tips about Oregon drone laws and can put them into practice today.
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