Last update: 16 January 2023
Table of content
A. IDENTIFYING MY DRONE CATEGORY
The three drone categories are:
*In the open category, there is an additional transitional category.
In the open category, drones can be flown without a permit. However, they must comply with a range of rules:
If you comply with all the rules for the open category, but fly a drone without a class marking (C0, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6) you can operate your drone in the transitional category. Under this category, the requirements (training, testing, minimum distance to uninvolved persons) are slightly more restrictive than in the open category.
If the operating requirements in the open category cannot be met (see Open category page), operation falls under the specific category. In this case, an authorisation from the FOCA is required.
The certified category is intended for high-risk drone operations (e.g. transport of people, carriage of dangerous goods). No drones are operating in the certified category in Switzerland or Europe at present. The rules are still in the process of being drawn up.
No. Whether or not a drone is flown recreationally has no bearing on the risk of drone operation. What is more important is the mode of operation, i.e. how, where and which drone is operated.
B. IDENTIFYING MY DRONE CLASS
There are five drone classes in the open category: C0, C1, C2, C3, C4. These indicate in which subcategory (A1, A2, A3) the drone can be operated. The subcategory (A1, A2, A3) determines what training and which examination must be completed. They also specify the minimum distance that must be maintained between the drone and uninvolved persons.
Anyone wishing to fly in the specific category in accordance with an EU standard scenario (EU-STS) requires a class C5 or C6 drone.
Class markings are not required for flying under the PDRA (Predefined Risk Assessment) or SORA (Specific Operation Risk Assessment) authorisation procedures.
The main factor that determines the drone class (C0, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6) is its weight. The drone class is indicated with a class identification label on the drone and looks like this (example):
In applying a class identification label, the drone manufacturer confirms that the product meets the technical requirements. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the technical requirements of the respective drone class are met. This is ensured by means of a conformity check.
Yes. The drone can be operated under a transitional category as long as all open category requirements are met. Under this category, the requirements (training, examination, minimum distance to uninvolved persons) are slightly more restrictive than in the open category.
Yes, but only if the drone manufacturer agrees. Drones without a class identification label are non-compliant. If these are subsequently issued with a class identification label, the drone manufacturer must carry out a conformity assessment. This confirms that the drone meets the technical requirements. The manufacturer will send the operator a sticker with the class marking. This must be attached to the drone.
The CE marking indicates that the manufacturer's product complies with the applicable requirements (safety, health and environmental protection). All drones have to have a CE marking, otherwise, their operation is prohibited.
Yes. The only people who are exempt from the requirement to register are pilots who fly a drone weighing less than 250g that is not equipped with a camera, microphone or other sensors suitable for recording personal data.
Registration is free of charge for drone pilots in Switzerland until further notice.
The two numbers can be compared with identification numbers used in road traffic:
- UAS operator number: Comparable to a vehicle registration plate: The number is issued after the registration process and must be attached to the drone in a clearly visible position.
- Remote pilot ID: Comparable to a driving licence: It is issued once the pilot has successfully passed the examination along with the certificate of competency.
Each drone must be visibly marked with the personal UAS operator number (CHExxxxxxxxx) before it can be flown. The three digits at the end (xyz) do not need to be placed on the drone, as this is your personal identification number, which ensures that no one can make unauthorised use of your personal UAS operator number. If you fly an unmarked drone, you will be liable to a fine.
The FOCA recommends that the UAS operator number be affixed to the drone as follows:
- By hand (in legible block letters, use waterproof pen);
- Using a sticker or label;
- Engraved directly on the drone.
- Natural persons: receive both a UAS operator number and a remote pilot licence.
- Legal entities: are companies, associations, foundations, etc. These receive a UAS operator number to identify the drone, but a company cannot obtain a pilot licence. The pilot's licence must be obtained by a natural person who ultimately pilots the drone.
Yes. As a private operator, you must register via UAS.gate (you will receive a UAS operator number to identify the drone) and complete the necessary training and examination (you will receive a certificate of competence or remote pilot licence).
Companies must also register as legal entities via UAS.gate (company receives a UAS operator number to identify the drone). The training and examination required for operation is completed by the pilot. If the pilot has already acquired the required certificates privately, no further training or examination is necessary.
If the same drone is used privately and in the company, it is up to the operators to decide which UAS operator number (natural person or legal entity) is affixed to the drone. It is a question of liability for any damage caused in the event of an incident.
Yes. Anyone who has registered in Switzerland (UAS.gate) may also fly their drone in an EU member state, as long as no further authorisation is required.
Only registered drone pilots are allowed to fly in Switzerland. Pilots must register in the EU member state in which they reside or where their company has its registered office. If this is the case, they do not need to register in Switzerland.
D. TRAINING AND EXAMINATION
Yes. There is a general requirement to undergo an online training and take an examination. Pilots operating a drone weighing less than 250g (C0 class identification label) are exempt from the training and examination requirement. However, the FOCA recommends that these operators also complete the training and examination voluntarily. This ensures that all pilots using the airspace are familiar with the applicable rules and can fly their drone safely.
The training and examinations for subcategories A1/A3 are combined in one course and can be taken online via UAS.gate. For the A2 subcategory certification, the training can be taken online via UAS.gate, the test takes place on-site at the offices of the FOCA (Papiermühlestrasse 172, CH-3063 Ittigen).
The type of training and examination depends on the subcategory (A1, A2, A3) in which the drone is flown. The subcategory determines the content and scope of the training and examination:
- Subcategory A1/A3: approx. 3-4h, training and examination can be taken online.
- Subcategory A2: Input as for subcategory A1/A3, plus approx. 2h online training; followed by 1h examination on-site at the FOCA.
Yes. Certificates issued on UAS.gate are valid in Switzerland and in all EU member states.
Yes. Certificates completed on the official UAS.gate platform before the EU drone regulation came into force in Switzerland are still valid. Pilots can download an updated version of the certificate bearing the EU logo in their UAS.gate profile. This means that the certificates are also recognised abroad. However, certificates completed on a voluntary basis via other providers will not be recognised.
All certificates are valid for five years. They then have to be extended. The FOCA will provide information about this process on the website in due course.
The examinations can be repeated as many times as you like free of charge.
No. The examination results cannot be viewed.
No. Only natural persons can obtain a certificate. As a company or association, the drone is marked with the UAS operator number of a legal entity. The drones can then be operated by different pilots, all of whom must have completed a certificate (and are therefore in possession of a remote pilot ID).
Yes. Certificates issued by another EU member state are valid throughout Europe.
Drone operations in the specific category are subject to authorisation. Different authorisation procedures are available depending on the type of operation planned:
- Standard scenario (CH-STS and EU-STS)
- PDRA (Pre-Defined Risk Assessment)
- SORA (Specific Operations Risk Assessment)
In the specific category, there are three types of authorisations with differing requirements:
Standard Scenario (EU-STS)
Minimum A1/A3-certificate and in addition:
Standard Scenario (CH-STS)
|Training and examination according to subcategory A2|
Pre-defined Risk Assessment (PDRA)
|Competencies are determined individually based on the planned operation|
|Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA)||Competencies are determined individually based on the planned operation|
These are minimum requirements. In addition, further training (theoretical or practical) can be completed on a voluntary basis.
Yes. The validity date is stated on the authorisation. This continues to apply after the adoption of the EU drone regulation in Switzerland. The FOCA will continue to issue new authorisations based on the Swiss Standard Scenarios (CH-STS) until 31 December 2023. These are valid for a maximum of 2 years. From January 2024, the FOCA will issue authorisations based on European standard scenarios (EU-STS).
The competent authority of a state in which the operator is registered is always responsible for authorising operations in the specific category. You have to register in the country in which a company has its registered office or a private individual has their place of residence. Companies that have their registered office in Switzerland, but are registered for drone operations abroad must cancel their existing registration and re-register in Switzerland.
Drone authorisations are processed by the country in which the operator is domiciled or has their place of business. Anyone who is domiciled or has their place of business in Switzerland and requires an authorisation must register in Switzerland via UAS.gate and delete the existing authorisation abroad. This also applies to operations that take place in another EU state.
It is understandable that you might feel you are being watched in such situations. That is why drone operators have to respect the privacy of others. You will find an overview of what is and is not allowed on the website of the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC). Available in DE/FR/IT:
G. FLIGHT PREPARATION
Anyone operating a drone under the open category may not fly it more than 120m above the ground. This distance is measured from the surface of the ground: if the drone is operated over terrain with natural elevations, the drone must be kept within a maximum distance of 120m from the nearest point on the earth's surface. The nearest point on the earth's surface is measured perpendicular to the earth's surface. If you need to fly over an obstacle taller than 120m, you are allowed to fly up to 15 metres above the height of the obstacle. However, this requires the consent of the owner of the obstacle. The distances are measured based on the prevailing terrain, such as plains, hills and mountains.
The weight specifications refer to the weight of the drone including its payload. So if the drone is equipped with a camera, the weight of the camera must be added to the weight of the drone.
The minimum age for operating a drone in Switzerland is 12 in the open category and 14 in the specific category. Children under the age of 12 may fly provided they are supervised by a person who is at least 16 with adequate piloting competency (training, examination). Different minimum ages may apply within the EU, so check the relevant information before operating a drone abroad.
A drone - insofar as it contains a radio transmitter and/or receiver - constitutes radio equipment. As such it is subject to the Telecommunications Act. Questions relating to frequencies fall within OFCOM's area of responsibility. Further information:
The use of transponders is only possible in certain cases. Please read the FOCA document provided:
H. FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS
Yes. The geographical zones published on the map apply.
You have to submit an unlock request to DJI. The FOCA has no influence over the definition of these zones and is not responsible for unlocking them. The geographical restrictions programmed by DJI on zones of use are not necessarily the same as the zones defined by the authorities in Switzerland. In any case, it is important to consult the drone map before flying.
Yes. Anyone flying a drone weighing 250g or more must take out civil liability insurance with a guaranteed sum of at least CHF 1 million. The FOCA also recommends having insurance for lighter drones.
It is important to check directly with your insurance provider whether your policy also covers damage caused by drone flights. If not, additional insurance may be required.
In the event of an accident, operators are liable for any damage. If no insurance has been taken out, the damage must be paid for by the pilot. This can quickly become very expensive. In addition, there is the risk of incurring a fine because in Switzerland holding civil liability insurance is obligatory for drones weighing 250g or more.
J. FLYING SPECIAL DRONES
If a drone is intended for children under 14 years of age and for indoor use only, this will be clearly stated on the product packaging. In this case, the drone regulations do not apply (no registration, no training and testing required). If the drone is intended for outdoor use, the drone regulations apply.
Yes. Privately built drones may be flown. Pilots are responsible for checking that the drone is correctly built and does not pose a safety risk. In the open category, privately built drones may only be operated in the following two subcategories:
- Subcategory A1: if the weight of the drone (including its payload) is less than 250g and it is flown at a speed of less than 19 m/s;
- Subcategory A3: if the weight of the drone (including its payload), is less than 25 kg.
If these criteria cannot be met, the drone is flown in the specific category.
K. SPECIFC DRONE OPERATIONS
The operation of drones with goggles (first person view) is permitted under the following conditions:
- an airspace observer is required to be next to the pilot (in direct visual contact) to monitor the drone and scan the surrounding area.
- The observer must always have the drone in direct sight.
- The observer actively communicates with the remote pilot and is able to intervene and take control of the drone at any time.
If constant direct visual contact with the drone cannot be ensured by an observer, a permit from the FOCA is required to fly using goggles. For the sports discipline of FPV drone racing, an authorisation (CH-STS) must also be obtained from the FOCA before the race.
Yes, as long as you do not fly over an assembly of people. Anyone who wants to fly directly over people needs a SORA operational authorisation. However, flying alongside an assembly of people is still permitted, provided that the applicable safety distance is respected and the people concerned are involved and sufficiently informed. The minimum safe distance depends on the subcategory (A1, A2, A3) in which you fly your drone.
Yes. However, you must comply with the rules for drone operations in the open category (authorisation-free). If one or more of the rules cannot be complied with, the drone operation falls into the specific category and an authorisation must be obtained from the FOCA.
As there always tends to be a lot of people in cities who are considered to be uninvolved persons, an authorisation from the FOCA is required for drone operations in urban environments using drones weighing over 900g. Even with lighter drones, you always have to be careful not to fly over uninvolved persons, which is practically impossible in an urban environment.
Yes. In Switzerland, there are already companies that use drones to deliver goods. Delivery drones are usually operated beyond the pilot's direct line of sight and in areas where there are a lot of people (e.g. towns). This type of drone operation is therefore very complex. A SORA authorisation from the FOCA is mandatory.
In Switzerland and Europe, no people have been transported using drones to date. Passenger transport with drones is highly complex. The operation and the flying object itself must go through a certification process. The relevant rules are still under development.
Is your question not in this list? The FOCA is at your disposal.
Last modification 22.06.2023