The new Community regulation does not make any distinction between commercial and private operation. However, in view of the regulatory conditions governing operation, most commercial operations are likely to come under the ‘specific’ category as in this case operation meets more complex requirements (in particular because flights take place above an altitude of 120 metres or drones are operated beyond visual line of sight). However, this is not to say that private/noncommercial flights cannot take place in the ‘specific’ category or that commercial flights cannot take place in the ‘open’ category. This criterion does not determine the category of operation.
|The contents of this website refer to legal bases which have not entered into force.|
I GENERAL POINTS
The European law divides the operation of drones into three categories: ‘open’, ‘specific’ and ‘certified’.
- In the ‘open’ category, drones can be operated without any authorisation provided visual contact with them can be maintained, they are flown at a distance of less than 120 metres above the ground and their weight does not exceed 25kg. Minimum distances in relation to third parties apply depending on the weight. Most recreational drones are operated in the ‘open’ category.
- In the ‘specific’ category contact must be made with the competent authority before drones are operated. This is the case, for example, when the drone is operated beyond visual line of sight above assemblies of people.
- The ‘certified’ category is reserved for high-risk operation (such as passenger transport or the carriage of dangerous goods).
II REGISTRATION OF DRONE OPERATORS AND TRAINING
The pilots and operators of drones over 250g (and also less than 250g if the drone is equipped with a camera, a microphone or other sensors able to capture personal data) must in future register online (UAS.gate) on the website of the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA). This applies to all categories of drone.
The new regulation requires registration of the operator in the register of drone operators, online training and online tests for most cases in the ‘open’ category.
Swiss legislation did not provide for mandatory training for remote pilots of drones. The completion of courses and tests was based on the voluntary participation of the remote pilots concerned.
With the adoption of the EU regulation, Switzerland must be able to demonstrate a training solution which includes, in particular, online training and an online test. Unfortunately, the training and certificates already obtained voluntarily cannot be recognised during the transition to the new EU regulation.
Yes, the certificates issued on the basis of the new regulation and recognised by the issuing Member State will also be recognised by Switzerland. Reciprocally, Member States will recognise the certificates issued by Switzerland on the basis of the European regulation.
With regard to previous certificates issued based on the former national law, it is up to the Member State to decide whether or not to adapt the national certificates in force issued on their territory to certificates that comply with the regulations (EU) 2019/947 and 2019/945. If they are adapted, they will also be recognised by the other Member States (including Switzerland).
The Member States have until 1 January 2022 to adapt the national certificates before they become invalid.
III AGE, WEIGHT AND LOCATION OF FLIGHT
The minimum age for operating a drone in the ‘open’ category will be set at 12 and for operating a drone in the ‘specific’ category at 14. Children aged under 12 can pilot a drone remotely provided they are supervised by a person aged over 16 with adequate piloting competency.
When a toy drone is designed for a child under 14 years of age and it is exclusively intended for indoor use (must be clearly indicated on the product), the new regulations do not apply.
When a toy drone is also intended for outdoor use, the European regulations on drones apply in the following way:
- If the toy drone weighs less than 250g and has a C0 class identification label, no minimum age applies to the remote pilot and no registration nor online training is required. In other words, the regulations of sub-category A1 for drones under 250g apply.
- If the toy drone weighs over 250g, it has to bear a corresponding class identification label and the remote pilot must meet all the requirements to pilot it (in particular, the minimum age, training and registration).
The weight limit will be reduced from 500g to 250g – i.e. without authorisation from the head of the airfield or Special Flights Office of skyguide. The prohibition on flying closer than 5km to an airfield will also apply to drones of 250g and over.
The maximum weight of a drone will be reduced from 30kg to 25kg. The operation of drones over 25kg is automatically classified in the ‘specific category’ which requires an authorisation issued by FOCA.
This distance is always measured from the surface of the ground. When operation of the drone involves a drone flight starting from a natural elevation of the terrain or over terrain with natural elevations, the drone must be kept within 120 metres from the closest point of the surface of the ground. The distance is measured perpendicularly to the ground. If an obstacle over 120 metres in height has to be flown over, you can fly at a maximum distance of 15 metres above it with the permission of its owner. The measurement of distances is adapted accordingly to the geographical characteristics of the terrain, such as plains, hills and mountains as the figure below illustrates:
Yes, the zones indicated on the drone map remain valid. These are nature conservation areas, control zones (CTR) and zones within a 5km radius of civil or military airfields. An application for an authorisation must be submitted to the competent authorities to obtain permission to operate drones in these areas.
The European regulation reduces the flight height limit to 120 metres throughout Switzerland. This height also applies in the CTRs. Some cantons have also defined their own restriction zones. The remote pilots are obliged to find out from the cantons about any restrictions and to comply with them. FOCA will include the done map shortly.
Drones of the DJI brand have a geofencing function which voluntarily restricts the range of the device, preventing it from flying in certain zones specified by the manufacturer. However, these zones are not necessarily the same as the exclusion zones or zones with restrictions on usage established by the authorities (see drone map). If you plan to pilot a DJI drone remotely in a zone programmed to be avoided by the manufacturer, an unlock request must be made directly to the manufacturer.
FOCA does not have any influence over the choice of these zones nor the power to unlock the drone.
IV QUESTIONS ABOUT CERTAIN TYPES OF OPERATIONS
A drone may be piloted remotely while wearing video glasses if the drone is in the field of vision of an observer who is watching the drone and the surrounding area, is actively communicating 7 with the remote pilot and is ready to intervene at any time to take over the controls of the device if necessary. Otherwise a special authorisation from FOCA is required as piloting a drone remotely without constantly maintaining direct visual contact with it is prohibited. As far as the new sport of first-person-view (FPV) racing is concerned, an application for an authorisation must be made to FOCA.
Drones in the open category may no longer be flown over gatherings of people, nor can standard permits for the operation of drones over closed gatherings of people be issued any longer. It will, however, still be possible to fly a drone next to a gathering of people, provided that the safety distance applicable to the drone category in question is maintained:
- For drones under 900g (drone classes C0, C1): with the reasonable expectation that no uninvolved persons will be overflown
- For drones under 4kg (drone class C2): maintaining a horizontal distance of 30m from uninvolved persons (provided the drone operator holds a remote pilot certificate)*
- For drones under 25kg (drone classes C2, C3, C4): maintaining a horizontal distance of 150m from uninvolved persons*
*These distances only apply to drones that have a CE marking and class identification label. If one of these markings is missing, the drone falls into the transition category: Limited Open, which has slightly modified distance rules.
If the regulations of the ‘open’ category cannot be met, this type of operation will fall under the ‘specific’ category.
This is the case if the distance to be adhered to between uninvolved persons and the drone cannot be kept or if the height of the planned flight exceeds 120 metres. Depending on the operation, the area of operation and the type of drone used, compliance with a standard scenario could be declared or an application for an operating authorisation based on a SORA (Specific Operations Risk Assessment) could be made. The height of flight is limited to 120 metres in all the standard procedures, both Swiss and European.
Ja, privat hergestellte Drohnen dürfen verwendet und je nach ihrem Gewicht in der offenen oder der speziellen Kategorie betrieben werden. Als Betreiber/in der Drohne müssen Sie alle Anforderungen der Verordnung (EU) 2019/947 erfüllen. Dazu gehört, dass Sie als Betreiber/in bzw. Fernpilot/in der Drohne registriert sind und alle für die entsprechende Unterkategorie erforderlichen Kompetenzen besitzen.
In der offenen Kategorie dürfen Sie die Drohne nur in den zwei folgenden Unterkategorien betreiben:
- A1, wenn das Gewicht der Drohne, einschliesslich ihrer Nutzlast, weniger als 250 g beträgt und sie mit einer Geschwindigkeit von weniger als 19 m/s geflogen wird; oder
- A3, wenn das Gewicht der Drohne, einschliesslich ihrer Nutzlast, weniger als 25 kg beträgt
Privat hergestellte Drohnen werden weder von einem Drohnenhersteller noch von einer notifizierten Stelle überprüft und besitzen deshalb kein CE-Siegel. Somit ist jede/r Betreiber/in dafür verantwortlich, zu überprüfen, ob die Drohne sicher konstruiert ist. Enthält die Drohne einen Funksender und/oder einen Empfänger, so gilt sie als Funkanlage. Dabei ist es wichtig, die richtigen Funkfrequenzen zu verwenden, die vom Bundesamt für Kommunikation (BAKOM) zugeteilt werden. Weitere Informationen über die Funkfrequenzen finden Sie auf der Website des BAKOM.
Insofar as they contain a radio transmitter and/or receiver, drones constitute radio equipment. They are subject to the Telecommunications Act and fall within OFCOM's area of responsibility as regards frequency regulation issues.
The use of transponders for drones is very limited and depends on the specifics of a planned operation. Further information are explained in the following document:
V OPEN CATEGORY
Yes, it is the drone’s weight and the class identification labels that will determine the regulations to be complied with. For example, the type of training required to pilot this drone remotely, whether registration in the register of operators is necessary and how or where a drone can be flown.
The new European regulation puts the operation of drones into categories (‘open’, ‘specific’, ‘certified’) and sub-categories (A1, A2 and A3). The drones are put into different classes (C0, C1, C2, C3, C4) depending in particular on their weight. They are what determine the subcategories in which the drone can fly.
The remote pilot’s first instinct must be to check that their drone bears a class identification label and CE marking.
If the drone does not have a class identification label , it is the weight of the drone that determines the sub-categories in which the remote pilot can fly their drone.
Under the new European regulation, the drone manufacturer must mark their product with a class identification label (C0, C1, C2, C3) certifying that the product meets the technical requirements necessary to be placed on the market. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the technical requirements of the respective class are met. In some cases, this verification is carried out by a third party (conformity evaluation process).
A drone may have several class identification labels (for example, C1 and C2).
Yes, the regulation provides for a transitional period expiring at the end of 2023. Most of the drones available on the market to date do not yet have the class identification label. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has therefore laid down transitional provisions for these drones without a class identification label. Drones which do not have a class identification label ("limited open") are subject to transitional provisions which are slightly more restrictive than the ordinary regulations for the ‘open’ category.
It is in principle possible to provide non-compliant drones with a class marking retrospectively. However, this involves corresponding costs and is usually the responsibility of the manufacturer: the class marking cannot be affixed by operators themselves. In any case, it is important to contact the drone manufacturer for this.
If a manufacturer intends to provide a non-compliant drone with a class marking retrospectively, the product will be subject to a so-called conformity assessment. This confirms that the drone meets the legal requirements. In this case, note that this will create a new product which bears a new serial number and that it will have to be re-registered. In cases where only a software update is required in order for the drone to comply with the legal requirements, the operator can carry out the subsequent application of a class mark in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Here, too, however, the manufacturer will provide instructions and assure itself that the drone can only be operated under the new operating system. At the end of the process, the manufacturer will provide the operator with a sticker with the class marking. This must be affixed to the drone.
Drones operated in the ‘open’ category will no longer have the right to fly over assemblies of people regardless of the drone’s weight. According to the definition provided by the EU, an assembly of people is not defined by a specific number of people, but is related to the opportunity for an individual in the group to move to avoid the consequences of a drone out of control. If, in a given area, there are so many people that there is little opportunity to freely escape or move away from the drone, this is deemed an assembly of people.
More definitions are available in the glossary.
To be deemed ‘involved’ in the operation, a person must:
- give their consent to being involved in the operation (for example, consent to be flown over by the drone); the consent must be provided explicitly;
- receive instructions and safety measures from the drone operator or the remote pilot to be applied in the event of an emergency;
- not be engaged in other activities preventing them from verifying the drone’s position and in the event of an accident from taking measures to avoid being hit.
When holding events, this means it is not sufficient to indicate on the ticket that a drone will be used during the event because the drone operator must receive the explicit consent of the individual and ensure that participants understand the risk and the procedures to be followed in an emergency. It is not just uninvolved persons who can be directly exposed to a drone, but also somebody in a bus or car etc. For example, if a drone flies over a car, its driver may be deemed an ‘uninvolved person’. The reason is that a drone flying close to a car (even if it does not hit it) could distract the driver and cause a traffic accident.
More definitions are available in the glossary.
Maintaining a minimum distance from recreational areas aims to prevent flying over uninvolved persons. In a recreational area where the probability of finding uninvolved persons is very high, this requirement would no longer be met. The EU regulation does not contain a definition of the term ‘recreational area’. This means, as the name suggests, popular places used by lots of people for leisure activities. They include, for example, the shores of lakes, sport fields and parks etc.
More definitions are available in the glossary.
VI SPECIFIC CATEGORY
The operation of a drone automatically falls under the ‘specific’ category when the requirements of the ‘open’ category are no longer met (see basic rules). Appropriate procedures must then be followed to carry out the planned operation.
Depending on the type of operation planned, the applicant can declare compliance with a standard procedure (standard scenario) or request an operating authorisation from FOCA for one-off or multiple operation. The operating authorisation is based on a prior risk assessment carried out by the applicant:
If operation is based on a standard scenario, the remote pilots must acquire the competencies set out in the standard declaration procedure. In other cases, the competencies of remote pilots are defined based on the type of operation planned and therefore on the type of procedure (standard scenarios, PDRA, SORA). The training must take place in cooperation with a body approved by FOCA.
Even with the entry into force of the EU regulations in Switzerland, the national standard scenarios can still be used for a certain period of time apart from the one concerning closed assemblies of people.
- Authorisations based on the standard national scenarios will no longer be issued from December 2021.
- The standard EU scenarios (ST-01 and ST-02) will apply from the same date.
- The maximum period of validity for authorisations based on the standard national procedures issued before December 2021 is two years.
VII INSURANCE AND PROCEDURE IN THE EVENT OF DAMAGE
Before piloting a drone remotely for the first time, the operator must take out civil liability insurance for an amount of at least CHF 1 million. From the entry into force of the new European regulation, civil liability insurance will be mandatory for all drones weighing 250g and over.
Yes, there are two different procedures in the reporting system:
- Firstly, all drone operators/remote pilots are obliged to report accidents and serious incidents immediately to the Aviation Division of the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board (STSB) via the REGA alarm centre (tel. 1414; from abroad +41 333 333 333).
- Secondly, all drone operators/remote pilots must report all incidents related to safety to the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) or the reporting system of the organisation concerned within 72 hours (www.aviationreporting.eu).
Incidents, serious incidents and accidents involving unmanned drones operated in the ‘open’ or ‘specific’ categories (but not the ‘certified’ category) are exempted from this obligation to report, provided that no serious or fatal injury to persons is recorded and no manned aircraft are involved.
VIII RECOGNIZED ENTITY
A body recognised by the FOCA to carry out practical training and assess the practical skills of remote pilots in the context of a standard scenario.
Recognized entities are important for both drone pilots (flying their drone in the specific category) and organizations (intending to become a recognized entity):
In order to be able to operate a drone in the ‘specific’ category under an EU standard scenario (STS), sound theoretical and practical knowledge is required in terms of pilot training. The pilot must first complete the training and pass an examination for the ‘open’ category A2. This consists of online training and a subsequent online examination with 70 questions. After passing this theory part, the pilot then has to complete practical training at a recognised entity.
Further information are accessible in the document "Recognized entities: information for pilots (PDF, 78 kB, 09.12.2020)"
Recognized entities must fulfil defined requirements, declare their compliance with these requirements to the FOCA and may then offer the corresponding training for drone pilots. The FOCA inspects these organizations as part of its supervisory activities (audits / inspections).
Further information are accessible in the document "Recognized entities Information for the provision of practical training for drone pilots with regard to regulation (EU) 2020/639" (PDF, 138 kB, 22.12.2020)
IX EU drone regulation in Switzerland
Questions on registration, training and examinations in Switzerland
The official Swiss registration, training and examination platform UAS.gate will be available from August 2021. Registration takes just five minutes and until further notice is voluntary and free of charge for Swiss drone operators.
Swiss drone operators. According to the EU law, operators must register in their place of residence or, in the case of a company, the place of its registered office. However, registration is voluntary in Switzerland, as the EU drone regulation has not been adopted yet.
Yes. From August 2021, it will be possible to follow training and examinations. The acquisition of certificates (certificate of competency and remote pilot certificate) takes 4 hours and is voluntary and free of charge in Switzerland until further notice.
No. The registration on the UAS.gate is only legally binding, once Switzerland has adopted the EU drone regulation. Anyone wishing to operate drones abroad before the EU drone regulation becomes applicable in Switzerland must register in an EU member state (the country where you fly your drone for the first time) and obtain the necessary certificate. Pilots, who have already registered on the UAS.gate once it is online, but wish to fly their drone in the EU, must register a second time abroad.
If you have already registered abroad and have obtained the certificates necessary for your drone category, you can fly your drone in the whole of the EU. However, you should note that the authority responsible for handling requests and issuing authorisation is no longer the FOCA but the civil aviation authority in the country in which you registered.
If you operate your drone in the open category, this is not a problem. It is only of relevance if you wish to carry out drone operations that require authorisation in Switzerland (specific category). If you wish to fly drones in the specific category, you must transfer your registration to Switzerland once the EU drone regulation takes effect in Switzerland (see question below).
Switzerland. The authority responsible for drone operations requiring authorisation is always that of the country of registration. An operation can be carried out abroad in accordance with the authorisation obtained in the country of registration (in this case Switzerland). You must apply directly to the competent authority in the country in which the flight is to take place. You must present the authorisation issued in Switzerland and give details of the intended flight area and any adapted risk reduction measures. The foreign authority will examine your application and inform you whether your drone operation is permitted.
The transfer of the registration to Switzerland takes place in two steps:
- Pilots register on the Swiss portal UAS.gate.
- Pilots delete the registration abroad. If this cannot be carried out independently via the online registration platform, the civil aviation authority of the country of registration must be contacted directly (by email).
Last modification 02.05.2022