Oregon Official Have Begun to Draft New Rules Governing the Use of Drones in State Parks and Coastal Regions

The Pacific Northwest state Oregon may be best known as the filming site for National Lampoon’s Animal House, the inspiration for the Simpson’s hometown, and the birthplace of Nike, but it is also considered to have some of the most beautiful landscapes in the United States. Oregon is famous for its lush forests, parks, and unique coastlines. For many outdoor nature enthusiasts, Oregon is on the top of the list of places to visit. Oregon’s abundant landscape has also become a favorite location for photographers.

While many photographers use traditional handheld cameras to capture the beauty of Oregon, drone photography is becoming more and more common in the state. Drones are equipped with cameras that give photographers a new way of presenting art with extreme HD quality. While drone technology continues to increase, the prices of these devices are still manageable, making them available to professional and amateur photographers. Desire Rukundo moved to Salem 6 years ago and was quickly taken by the state’s beauty. Working as a Mental Health Technician at Oregon State Hospital, Desire picked up photography as a hobby. Some of his drone images are currently on display at the Adell McMillan Gallery in the Erb Memorial Union of the University of Oregon. Desire’s goal with his drone is to remind Oregonians of just how captivating their home is.

Desire is just one of many photographers using drone technology to explore Oregon in new ways. Because drone use has increased so much in the state, officials have begun to draft new rules governing the use of drones in Oregon’s state parks and coastal regions. Drone operators in Oregon have to adhere to the same drone regulations the rest of the country has to follow set forth by the FAA. These are mostly general rules such as registering your drone, acquiring a Part 107 drone license, following safe drone practices, and keeping drones out of restricted airspaces like airports and federal property. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), along with drone advocates, want to put more specific regulations into action.

As drone popularity has increased there have been more incidents of drones becoming bothersome at some of the more popular Oregon tourist destinations. Katie Gauthier of the OPRD reported that a drone with a camera was caught filming at a nude beach in Rooster Rock State Park. Other incidents have seen drones crashing into cliffs next to rock climbers at Smith Rock State Park. Meanwhile, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials have reported drones disturbing nesting endangered species on the coast.

As an advisor for the new rules committee, Kenji Sugahara, chief pilot for A-Cam Aerials, said that a lack of clarity is making it hard for drone operators to do what they need to do safely. “The current situation is confusing,” he said. “There is no great resource to show where it’s good to fly. Bad information is disseminated on social media. There’s confusion between state, national, and even county parks. Even drone apps are often wrong.” The committee is made up of 9 people representing drone operators, the FAA, and Oregon parks officials. The team hopes to have a new plan of action in place for state approval by April so that enforcement can begin before the 2022 summer tourist season. The committee wants to encourage photographers like Desire to continue using drones, just with respect for the natural splendor of Oregon.

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