- Switzerland has not yet adopted the EU drone regulation.
- The Federal Council is currently in discussions with the EU on the implementation of Motion 20.3916, which instructs the Federal Council to exclude traditional model aircraft when adopting EU Regulation 2019/947 and leave this category under national law.
- There is as yet no exact schedule for the next steps in the process (see approximate schedule below).
- For the time being, existing national legislation applies. The webpage with the EU drone regulation remains available for information purposes.
- Further information on the current situation for Swiss drone pilots in terms of registration, training and exam are available in the FAQ of the webpage with the EU regulation (section "IX Motion 20.3916 and the application of the EU drone regulation in Switzerland").
Background: Planned adoption of EU drone regulation in Switzerland
On 31 December 2020, a single regulatory framework for civilian drones came into force in the European Union (EU). Switzerland would also have adopted this EU drone regulation since Switzerland and the EU regulate the international aviation sector in a uniform manner under their bilateral air transport agreement. Since 2002, therefore, European aviation law applies in Switzerland. This agreement also gives Switzerland full membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), meaning it can directly shape the rules and regulations concerning manned and unmanned aviation in Europe. It also played an active role in the drafting of the EU drone regulation.
New rules for the Swiss drone and model aircraft industry
The EU drone regulation would have introduced new rules for Swiss drone operators in a number of areas, including model aircraft, as the EU drone regulation does not in principle distinguish between drones and model aircraft. The regulation provides for far-reaching exemption possibilities for model aircraft when operated by members of an association or club. In addition, it requires all operators to register electronically, regardless of club or association membership.
Debate in the National Council and Council of States
As a result, the parliamentary motion 20.3916 was proposed, which instructs the Federal Council to exclude traditional model aircraft when adopting EU Regulation 2019/947 and leave this category under national law. On 10 September 2020 this motion was debated in the National Council and was adopted by 93 votes to 79. On 8 December 2020, the Council of States also voted in favour of Motion 20.3916 by 20 votes to 19. The Federal Council had requested both chambers to reject the motion.
Debate in the National Council (German and French only)
Dabete in the Council of States (German and French only)
Federal Council in discussions with the EU
The Federal Council is currently in contact with the European Commission over a possible way of implementing the concerns raised in Motion 20.3916. Switzerland will explain to the EU the extent to which the regulation, which Switzerland has played a major role in shaping, is not appropriate for national conditions after all. The Federal Council will work to ensure that model aircraft are excluded from the regulation before it is adopted in Switzerland.
Schedule with regard to Motion 20.3916
There are two possible outcomes of the discussions with the EU:
It is decided that the requirement in Motion 20.3916 can be implemented in Switzerland: Switzerland will then adopt the EU drone regulation without Article 16, which relates to model aircraft, and regulate this area on a national basis. When the EU drone regulation without the said article is adopted depends on the European Commission's response.
It is decided that the requirement in Motion 20.3916 cannot be met: The result will be discussed further in Parliament. Again, two scenarios can be derived from the discussions in Parliament:
- Switzerland adopts the EU drone regulation in full with Article 16 or
- Switzerland does not adopt the EU drone regulation.
As various stakeholders are involved, the FOCA is not yet able to give a precise schedule for what is to follow. This page will be kept up to date with further information.
The EU regulation distinguishes between three different categories for the operation of unmanned aircraft: open, specific and certified. The vast majority of drones are operated in the open category. This category regulates the operation of drones that can be flown without a permit because their safety risk is considered to be low.
Overview over the new regulatory framework on drones:
- The new maximum flight altitude is 120 metres above ground. As under the current regulation, the drone must be operated in visual line of sight (VLOS). This means that the drone operator is aware of the flight attitude and direction of the drone at all times.
- The minimum age for operating a drone independently in the open category is 12 years. Younger children may only fly a drone under the supervision of a person who is at least 16 years old and meets the requirements.
- Until now, drones up to 500g could be flown largely without restriction. They only had to avoid nature reserves and airfields within a 5km radius. This weight limit is now 250g.
- Assemblies of people may no longer be overflown in the open category; this applies to all drones regardless of their all-up weight.
- Under the new EU drone regulation, pilots in the open category are required to register on the official registration, training and examination platform UAS.gate. Pilots of drones weighing less than 250g that are not equipped with a camera, sensor or other device for recording personal data are exempt from this requirement. UAS.gate will be in operation from August 2021.
- An online training course and an online examination must also be completed on the same platform (UAS.gate). However, this is not mandatory for all pilots: it depends on the type of drone and type of drone use (note the class [C0-C4] and subcategory [A1-A3] for drone operation).
- It should take less than five minutes to register. At least three hours are required for the online training and test. The course and test do not have to be completed in one sitting but must be completed within 30 days.
- Under Swiss legislation, pilots have until now been able to take courses and examinations on a voluntary basis. Courses taken and certificates already acquired voluntarily cannot be recognised when switching to the new system. It is not necessary to purchase training materials or attend additional courses, as the online training offered by the FOCA is tailored to the examination and covers all the required topics.
- Flying drones in FPV mode (pilot with goggles and observer standing next to them with drone in VLOS) will be permissible as before.
The FOCA has set up an information portal on the new EU drone regulation. There is a summary of the rules for the open category here. If you have more specific questions on any of the three categories, please refer to the FAQs on the information portal.
Last modification 19.10.2021