A bill that could allow Oregon cities and counties to limit the use of drones in parks is scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday in Salem.
The bill has some drone enthusiasts worried that the concerns over irresponsible drone use would lead to a complete ban on drones in city and county parks. However, some believe that regulation is necessary and that unmanned aircraft should not be flown low over people or used to take intrusive photos.
Joe Miller, who flies radio-controlled planes with a club in Dallas, Oregon, believes that some regulation is needed, but he doesn't want to see a blanket ban on drones in city and county parks.
He suggests that safe, designated spots away from people should be allowed for flying unmanned aircraft. Miller's club, called the Dallas Wingdingers, has a designated area just outside the city limits, so it is unlikely to be affected by the bill.
“If you designate a spot that is safe, kind of away from the majority of folks, an open area…” Miller said. “Don't just say ‘no, we're not going to let anybody do it. They're just out there to have a little bit of fun. We follow all the rules and fly as safely as possible.”
The Portland Audubon Society supports the bill, believing that increased drone usage in parks has disrupted Wildlife. In submitted testimony, the organization stated that parks provide critical habitats for dozens of bird species and millions of individual birds.
“Parks provide critical habitat for dozens of bird species and millions of individual birds,” lobbyist Kyle Linhares said on behalf of Portland Audubon. “We feel that allowing local governments to restrict drone activity on park land is a reasonable and prudent step.”
They think it is reasonable and prudent to allow local governments to restrict drone activity in parklands.
The League of Oregon Cities also supports the bill, but they want to make it clear to lawmakers that they are not suggesting that cities and counties implement widescale drone bans. The league's lobbyist, Scott Winkels, wrote in submitted testimony that flying drones is a growing pastime that is perfectly appropriate in some parks, but not all parks and not in every part of a park.
Like how cities can prohibit radio-controlled cars on ball fields, they should also be able to prohibit unmanned aircraft take-offs and landings where they are unsafe or damaging to wildlife.
Senate Bill 812 is still up for debate, and it remains to be seen how it will fare in Salem. If passed, it will allow Oregon cities and counties to regulate drone activity in parks, but it will not necessarily lead to a blanket ban on drones.
Photo credit: Matt Davey / Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
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