As the largest city in Oregon, Portland regularly welcomes tens of thousands of visitors per year.
The city features Washington Park, music and art, bike paths and bridges, parks, Mount Hood, and the Willamette and Columbia rivers.
You’d love to capture Portland’s magnificence with your drone camera. Can you fly a drone in Portland, Oregon?
You can fly a drone in Portland, Oregon, except for its parks, unless you have permission from a park director. Portland has many great places for drone pilots to explore, including Elk Rock Island and Lost Lake.
In this article, we’ll delve deeper into Portland’s drone laws, discussing off-limits places.
We’ll also recommend a handful of great spots throughout the city where you can legally fly, so make sure you keep reading!
Can you fly a drone in Portland, Oregon?
Portland is a beautiful city brimming with fun activities, from seeing Pittock Mansion to witnessing the beauty of the Portland Japanese Garden or maybe spending a day at the Portland Art Museum.
Another activity you can add to the list? Flying your drone! Portland, Oregon welcomes drones within reason.
One place in the city you’ll have to avoid is any parks. The official city code, in Chapter 20.12 Prohibited Conduct, 20.12.180 Remote Control Vehicles, Aircraft and Watercraft. states the following:
“No person shall operate any remote-controlled internal combustion powered vehicle, or any remote-controlled electric or internal combustion powered watercraft or aircraft in, on or over any Park, except in such places the Director may designate for such use.”
To reiterate, public and state parks alike count under this state law.
You also cannot fly your drone within five miles of an airport or military base. We recommend checking your favorite drone app for a real-time map to see where else you might be prohibited from flying.
6 great places to fly a drone in Portland, Oregon
Now that you know you can fly a drone in Portland, it’s time to begin planning your travels.
If you’re looking for some optimal locations for legal drone flights, here are six of the most popular spots throughout the city.
1. Pittock Mansion
One of the main sights in Portland, the Pittock Mansion is a chateau in the city’s West Hills built in the style of French Renaissance architecture.
Erected in 1914 as a private residence for Georgiana Burton Pittock and Henry Pittock, the 46-room home is today managed by the Bureau of Parks and Recreation.
The mansion offers tours, but you won’t be able to get inside with your drone. Instead, you can fly around the Class G uncontrolled airspace, ideally before the crowds gather.
2. Milwaukie Bay Park
In nearby Milwaukie is Milwaukie Bay Park, also known as Milwaukie Riverfront Park. This small and quaint 8.5-acre park is right by the downtown area, and affords beautiful views of the Willamette River.
Avoid the park during warm-weather holidays, as boat parades in the area make it a major attraction with big crowds.
3. Little Crater Lake
Drone pilots shouldn’t miss a chance to explore Little Crater Lake. This Oregon lake in Clackamas County is part of the Mount Hood National Forest. Before you ask – yes, you’re allowed to fly your drone there.
Nicknamed in honor of Oregon’s Crater Lake, the miniature variety confounds geologists because they’re not sure how it appeared.
The lake has very steep walls, so perhaps a lava tube collapsed. That’s just a theory.
The lake has springs underground where artesian water flows and creates the depression. It’s truly a magnificent lake, and the uniqueness of it is something you’ll only find in Oregon!
4. Elk Rock Island
Another excellent spot for making the most of your time in Portland is Elk Rock Island. The island sits on the Willamette River and is between 12 and 13 acres.
Elk Rock Island developed after a volcano struck the area 40 million years back.
You can get to Elk Rock Island by Spring Park and spend the day flying your drone among its backdrop of deciduous trees and Oregon White Oaks.
5. Lost Lake
While you’re checking out Little Crater Lake in Mount Hood National Forest, don’t miss Lost Lake, also in the park. To get there, venture a little further than 10 miles northwest of the forest.
Surrounding Lost Lake is Preachers Peak (a 4,556-foot mountain) and the Lost Lake Butte (which is 4,468 feet). Lost Lake features a general store, cabins, and campsites.
If you see crowds, find a less busy area of the lake for capturing incredible shots with your drone.
6. Fly-A-Way RC Field
Last but certainly not least, we recommend Fly-A-Way RC Field in nearby Cornelius when you want to use your drone in the Portland area.
You’ll first have to join the Fly-A-Ways RC Club to gain access to the field.
The group accepts members beginning every February 1st until September or reaching 200 members, whichever happens first.
Then you’d have to wait until a member leaves for you to join, as the club has a 200-person cap.
Fly-A-Ways RC Club insists its members are part of an Academy of Model Aeronautics National Club Membership. If you’re accepted into the Fly-A-Ways RC Club, you must follow its rules to stay a member.
Oregon drone laws to remember
Now that you have a full itinerary, read up on these Oregon drone laws before you take off in Portland.
No drone use at Oregon Metro Parks
Oregon Metro Parks, in its local law, prohibits pilots from using drones on the property. Here’s the full law:
“As an owner of real property as described in ORS 837.380, Metro prohibits the use of unmanned aircraft systems (e.g. drones) on its Property. Within the boundaries of any Property, it is unlawful to:
- Use or operate any power-propelled model rocket, drone aircraft, glider, wheeled or tracked vehicle or boat, except in areas specifically designated by Metro and posted for such use.
- Launch drones from Metro Property or land drones on Metro Property.
- Fly any drones at a height of less than 400 feet in the airspace above Metro Property land or water. Metro reserves its rights under ORS 837.380 to recover treble damages and attorney fees for any trespass or violation of this Section, as permitted by law.”
No harassing others with your drone on private property
According to state law HB 3047, you cannot use your drone on private property to harass the property owner.
HB 4066 prohibits drone use in this fashion:
- “(a)(A) For the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the person, the person is in a location to observe another person in a state of nudity without the consent of the other person; and
- (B) The other person is in a place and circumstances where the person has a reasonable expectation of personal privacy; or
- (b)(A) The person knowingly makes or records a photograph, motion picture, videotape or other visual recording of another person’s intimate area without the consent of the other person; and
- (B) The person being recorded has a reasonable expectation of privacy concerning the intimate area.”
Don’t use your drone as a weapon
Also in HB 4066, pilots in Oregon will receive a first-degree endangerment charge for the following behavior:
- ““(a) Throws an object at, or drops an object upon, an aircraft;
- (b) Discharges a bow and arrow, gun, airgun or firearm at or toward an aircraft;
- (c) Tampers with an aircraft or a part, system, machine or substance used to operate an aircraft in such a manner as to impair the safety, efficiency or operation of an aircraft without the consent of the owner, operator or possessor of the aircraft; or
- (d) Places, sets, arms or causes to be discharged a spring gun, trap, explosive device or explosive material with the intent of damaging, destroying or discouraging the operation of an aircraft.”
That will lead to a Class C or Class A misdemeanor. If you’re charged with a Class A misdemeanor, you’ll spend up to a year in jail and/or have to pay a fine of up to $6,250.
A Class C misdemeanor is more serious still, including punishments of five years imprisonment or a fine of up to $125,000.
Obey all FAA drone rules
All other FAA drone laws apply, including:
- You must have a hobbyist or commercial drone license before launching.
- If your drone weighs 0.55 pounds or over, register it with the FAA.
- You cannot fly a drone that weighs more than 55 pounds.
- You can only fly your drone between sunrise and sunset.
- You must have a visual line of sight on your drone the entire time you use it.
- You cannot fly your drone in inclement weather.
- You can only fly your drone 400 feet from the ground.
- You cannot operate your drone faster than 100 miles per hour.
Portland, Oregon is a beautiful city and one in which drones can fly.
You’re prohibited from accessing airports, military bases, or parks with your drone, but with so many other great places to explore–including lakes, mountains, and islands–you won’t mind that so much!