Open category

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Switzerland is adopting EU drone regulation on 1 January 2023

The open category governs the operation of drones generally flown without authorisation from the FOCA. The open category is divided into three sub-categories: A1, A2, A3. The vast majority of drones are operated in the open category. This page highlights the key points to bear in mind.

1. I have registered

Registration is mandatory for all drone pilots.
Exception: The drone weighs less than 250g and is not equipped with a camera, sensor or any other kind of device for recording personal data.

2. I complete the training and take an examination appropriate to my sub-category

sub-categories_vs_c-labels

I place my drone in one of the subcategories, so I know which certificates I need. I can find all the information about the training and certificates here.

The table below only applies to drones with class identifications labels. If I fly a drone without a class identification label, I place it in the transitional category.

Category Class Training
A1 < 250g C0 Not required
A1 < 900g C0, C1 A1/A3
A2 C0, C1, C2 A1/A3 + A2
A3 C0, C1, C2, C3, C4 A1/A3

3. I meet the minimum age requirement

I am at least 12 years old or fly my drone under the supervision of an accompanying person who is at least 16 years of age and has the required skills.

4. I keep the minimum horizontal distance from uninvolved persons

When I fly a drone, I must keep a minimum horizontal distance from persons who are not involved in the flight. The distance depends on the sub-category (A1, A2, A3) in which I fly my drone:

Category Safety distance
A1 < 250g

Flying over people

  1. I may fly over uninvolved persons, but should avoid doing so whenever possible.
  2. Flying over assemblies of people is prohibited.
A1 < 900g

Flying over people

  1. Before flying, I assess the area; I may only fly if it can be reasonably assumed that no uninvolved people will be overflown. If I do unexpectedly fly over uninvolved people, I steer the drone away from the people. 
  2. Flying over assemblies of people is prohibited.
A2

Flying close to people

  1. Flying over uninvolved people is prohibited.
  2. The minimum horizontal distance to uninvolved persons is  
    • 30m without low speed mode  
    • 5m with activated low speed mode (<3m/s)
  3. In addition, I must comply with the 1:1 rule. This means that the number of meters of horizontal distance must be at least equal or more than the number of meters of altitude (e.g.: If I fly at 40m height, I must fly at least 40m away from people).
A3

Flying far from people

  1. Flying over uninvolved persons is prohibited.
  2. I always keep a minimum horizontal distance of at least 150m from residential/commercial/industrial and recreational areas (*see note below).
  3. In addition, I must always comply with the following three points concerning the distance to uninvolved people:
    • minimum distance of 30m
    • 1:1 rule (number of meters height I am flying, I must also keep in horizontal distance)
    • at least the distance my drone travels at maximum speed within 2 seconds (reaction time).

*FOCA's Guidance on point 2: 

The intent of point 2 above is that the operation is conducted in an area where no uninvolved person will be endangered within the range where the unmanned aircraft is flown.

The remote pilot shall thus ensure a minimum horizontal distance of 150m from areas where, at the time of the operation, 10 or more uninvolved people, contained within a radius of 100m, are present. 

It is the responsibility of the remote pilot to evaluate the area by means of an on-site inspection prior to the start and during the operation, and to determine whether the operational environment complies with the limitations above.

See examples here.

5. Maximum flight altitude of 120m above ground level

A maximum flight altitude of 120m above ground level now applies in the open category. Authorisation must be obtained from the FOCA to fly higher.

6. I fly a compliant drone

My drone must bear a CE marking: A drone purchased without a CE marking cannot be flown.
Exception: The drone is self-built. 

Self-built drones can also be operated in the open category. 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 25kg. 

If these criteria cannot be met, the drone is flown in the specific category.  

Not new but still important:

  • I am aware of the area restrictions
  • I always keep visual contact with my drone
  • I avoid other aircraft in good time*
  • I do not fly over assemblies of people
  • I respect the privacy of other people
  • I have sufficient insurance cover 

* The "see and avoid" principle applies to unmanned aircraft as well. Since an aircraft pilot stands little chance to recognize a small drone early enough, it is the drone pilot’s responsibility to take timely evasive action and to maintain a proper distance from other aircraft at any time. 

Further information

Last modification 11.08.2023

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