SORA stands for specific operations risk assessment and encompasses a methodology which systematically identifies the risk of drone operations which require a permit. Any drone flight which cannot be covered by either an STS or a PDRA requires an application in accordance with SORA which is specific to the proposed operation.
Switzerland is adopting EU drone regulation on 1 January 2023: eight-month transition period
From 1 January 2023, the FOCA will only issue operational authorisations based on EU legislation. An eight-month transition period will apply to adapt authorisations under Swiss law to the new legislation. The transition period ends on 1 September 2023. The parties concerned must hold an authorisations permit on EU law by that date.
1. Check the date of validity:
All SORA authorisations for a limited period. This date of validity is indicated on the authorisation.
2. Based on the date when EU drone regulations enter into force in Switzerland (1 January 2023):
The validity of the SORA authorisation
- expires after eight months: The SORA authorisation is valid until the expiry date indicated. A new authorisation from the FOCA will then be required.
- exceeds the eight-month period: The SORA authorisation remains valid. In cases where the authorisation is not consistent with the new regulations, it must be brought into line with the new legislation. It is the permit holder’s responsibility to check this.
3. Applying for the new EU SORA authorisation:
Operators submit a new application to the FOCA based on the EU legislation. This is assessed according to regular procedures. The new SORA authorisation is recognised throughout the EU.
What is it about?
The FOCA and EASA have developed a total of three types of procedure for authorising complex drone operations (CH-STS, EU-STS, PDRA), all based on the SORA methodology. This methodology is used to determine the risk posed by a complex drone operation. This includes operations which take place beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), exceed the maximum height of 120 metres or use a drone whose maximum take-off weight (MTOM) is greater than 25 kg.
The SORA methodology represents an iterative process in which the risk of complex drone operations is systematically identified: In a total of 10 steps, the applicants themselves determine where, when and how they perform the operation without endangering people and objects in the air or on the ground. At the end of this process, there is a detailed description of the planned operation and the risks associated with it, as well as the measures required to mitigate the risks.
What knowledge is necessary for a SORA? As the risk analysis is performed by the applicant (e.g. a company that wishes to perform the complex operation), knowledge of aviation as well as of the usual verification of safety-relevant systems in aviation is a fundamental requirement. Depending on the complexity of the planned operation, applying the SORA methodology is challenging, especially if risk analysis of drone flights is not part of a company’s or applicant’s core business.
Risk analysis in accordance SORA is not within the competence of my company. What are my options? With the aim of simplifying and standardising the underlying processes, the FOCA, EASA and other bodies including JARUS have published specific guidance material (GM), which describes in detail the conditions that complete SORA documentation must contain.
Support and Guidance Material
- FOCA-UAS-GM-Part 1: How to apply for an Operational Authorization based on SORA (PDF, 13 MB, 29.06.2023)
- FOCA-UAS-GM-ERP: Guidance on M3 - Emergency Response Plan (PDF, 490 kB, 29.06.2023)
- FOCA-UAS-GM-AirRisk: Guidance Step 4 - Air Risk Assessment (PDF, 5 MB, 29.06.2023)
- FOCA-UAS-GM-OSO8: Guidance on Operational Procedures (PDF, 665 kB, 01.06.2021)
- FOCA-UAS-GM-OM Guidance Operations Manual (auf Englisch) (PDF, 1 MB, 03.04.2023)
- FOCA-UAS-APP-OM: Vorlage Betriebshandbuch / OM (auf Englisch) (DOCX, 1 MB, 03.04.2023)
- UAS AltMoC to SORA Step 9 on Containment (PDF, 3 MB, 10.01.2023)
Alternative Means of Compliance (AltMoC) on Containment (SORA 2.0 Step 9)
FOCA has issued an Alternative Means of Compliance (AltMoC) to change the containment requirements and the assessment of their need as currently found in chapter 2.5.3 Step 9 of AMC1 to Article 11 of (EU) 2019/947.
This AltMoC applies to UAS Operators in specific category within Switzerland and focuses on changing the assessment triggers in point 2.5.3(c) which mandate enhanced containment for certain UAS operators.
The background and details of this AltMoC are handed out in the following document:
The steps to an approval
Note that obtaining a SORA authorisation is often an iterative process: The preparation of a risk analysis according to the SORA methodology takes time and is done in exchange with the FOCA. Therefore, depending on the complexity of a project and the necessary updates on the safety case following FOCA's assessment, the complete duration of a successful evaluation can expand over a longer period of time.
The entire authorization process - from the initial contact with the FOCA, to the completed SORA documents, to the authorisation - can be summarized with the following steps:
Notice of modification of authorized opperations
If you wish to report an operational or technical change to operations already authorised by the FOCA, please use the following form to extend your authorisation to this change.
Last modification 29.06.2023