Oregon is another one of those American states mainly known for its incredible natural beauty. Thanks to an incredibly diverse landscape there’s a lot to take in with your camera drone, but will you get in trouble for taking off and ogling the forestry?
Before you worry about state-specific drone laws, head over to the FAA’s website and familiarize yourself the national requirements both when it comes to your drone and when it comes to you.
Just as with all US states, federal laws pertaining to drones take precedence over state laws. In fact, the FAA’s regulations on drone use preemptively stop state government from intruding into their jurisdiction. So any state laws that aim to regulate airspace or pilot certification is almost certainly going to be overturned.
On the other hand, states are very much empowered to make local laws pertaining to surveillance, harassment, liability, property damage and privacy in general.
In order to operate a drone for any business purposes (to make money) in the United States you will need a license.
This is called a Remote Pilot Certificate.
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Some states have been happy to simply apply existing privacy laws to drone use, but others have been pretty quick do draft drone-specific laws. Let’s find out where Oregon stands on the use of drones.
Being a Danger to Aircraft
The FAA already has quite a bit to say about staying away from large aircraft that carry people, but Oregon has fleshed out what they consider to be reckless endangerment of an aircraft. While you are already not allowed to fly within a certain distance of an airport( unless you have special permission to do so) you’ll also pick up additional charges if you do the following:
- Crash your drone into an airborne aircraft
- Prevent takeoff or landing of an aircraft with your drone
These laws don’t seem to apply to any drone-on-drone interference because UAS are not legally defined as aircraft in this context. If you break these laws you’ve committed a Class A violation, which suggests hefty fines.
Many public and private organisations are champing at the bit to put drones into service. However, government is understandably cagey about technologies that could violate the constitutional rights of their constituents. So Oregon has passed laws specifying what public bodies are allowed to do with data collected by UAS.
Basically it forces any public body that wants to operate drones as part of its business to establish concrete data and privacy policies. They have to indicate in detail how they will use video, audio or any other data collected by drone. They are compelled by law to state on their public websites:
- How long data is kept
- Any third-party storage or handling details
- Intergovernmental data disclosures
Law Enforcement Surveillance
Oregon is very strict about when and where state law enforcement are allowed to use drones. Johnny Law is only allowed to use drones for law enforcement in the specific ways described in the applicable Oregon state laws. This establishes a narrow set of circumstances where the cops can use drones.
If drone footage and data is not specifically used in one of these ways then it is not admissible in court. It also cannot be used as the starting point to establish reasonable suspicion. So how are they allowed to use drones? Here are the main points:
- A warrant must be issued authorizing the use of a drone
- Probable cause exists and circumstances are such that getting a warrant first is impossible and they believe that a warrant would reasonably be granted if applied for.
- Warrants must indicate the time period for drone use and it can never be more than 30 days without court-reviewed renewal.
- If the person gives consent in writing to have data collected about themselves or their property, law enforcement may use a drone.
- Drones are permitted for search and rescue work.
- Drones may be used by law enforcement if a state of emergency has been declared.
- They can be used for criminal investigations. For example, when getting images of a crime scene. However, activities such as reconstructing a crime scene by use of a drone may not go on for longer than five days.
- They may be used for training purposes, but any data gathered during training can’t be used as evidence.
Drone Registration by Public Bodies
In addition to FAA regulations, any public body that wants to operate drones as part of its work must also register them with the Oregon Department of Aviation. They also can’t use them to gather evidence or for surveillance unless it’s in line with the specific situations listed above and they are in the business of law enforcement.
Putting Weapons on A Drone
If you’re thinking of attaching a pistol or other projectile weapon to your drone in Oregon, think twice. Under state law this would be a felony and comes with potential jail time. Modifying or using a drone in a way that essentially turns it into a weapon also violates this law. Accidents are not included here, but if you use a drone as a weapon on purpose or use one recklessly then you can be charged under this law.
This law does not include drones that fire non-lethal projectiles that are not designed to hurt people or animals. So if you want to attach a NERF pistol then I guess you should be OK.
You CAN use a drone with a dangerous projectile system if you have a permit, which you can get after applying and indicating why you need such a system. In addition to a permit you also need to notify the public if you’ll be flying in a public space. You are also obligated to maintain at least $1 million worth of liability insurance.
Laws Protecting Drones
It’s not just protection from drones that Oregon has decided to legislate. Legal drone operators are also protected under Oregon law from having their drone hacked or sabotaged.
If someone jams or messes with your drone, which includes hacking it and taking over, they are liable to you for at least $5000. That apart from any other legal recourse you have and does not include the possible awarding of attorney’s fees.
Property Owner Rights
If you fly your drone over someone’s private property without their permission then they can sue you. That counts for both private and government drone operators. They can only do this however if after the first time it happens the drone operator was notified that the owner does not want a drone flying overhead. This basically puts the burden on property owners to object to private and commercial drone flight over their properties.
You can take action against the operator if their flight path is part of a legal flightpath to land at an airport or other formal aviation property. If the drone is taking off or landing and crosses your property in the process there’s also no grounds for complaint.
FAA-compliant commercial drones (such as delivery drones) also can’t be complained against under the drone law section that describes these property owner rights. You can still file a civil claim however.
Oregon drone laws make provision for up to three times the damages or injury incurred through drone use if it happened as a result of trespassing.
Oregon Drone Laws – Operators Beware
The state of Oregon has comprehensive laws relating to drone operation and both civil and criminal penalties related to their operation. I could not cover the extent of these in this article and I recommend anyone who operates a drone in Oregon to go through the actual points of law in detail.
It would be very easy to unknowingly violate Oregan drone laws and end up on the wrong side of things. As they say, ignorance of the law is no excuse!
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