New drone regulation from 1 January 2021

Switzerland had planned to adopt the European Union Regulation on the rules and procedures for the operation of unmanned aircraft (drones) as of 1 July 2020. As a result of the Corona crisis, the EU Commission has decided that the application of Regulation (EU) 2019/947 will be postponed by six months. This means that the current Swiss regulations on the operation of drones will remain in force until the end of 2020.

The EU Regulation distinguishes between three categories of operating unmanned aircraft. The vast majority of drones, especially in the recreational sector, are operated in the Open category. This category regulates the operation of drones which can generally be operated without a licence because the safety risk they pose is considered to be low. The additional rules to the existing regulation are as follows:

  • In the Open category, a maximum height of 120 m from the closest point of the surface of the earth (ground level) is now applicable. As before, the drone must be operated in direct visual line of site (VLOS), i.e. the drone pilot must be able to determine the flight attitude and direction of the drone at any time.
  • The minimum age for independent operation of a drone in the Open category is 12 years. Younger children may only fly a drone under the supervision of a person who meets the requirements and is at least 16 years old.
  • A lower weight limit of 250 g (previously 500 g) will apply. This means that drones under 250 g must avoid nature conservation areas and areas in the immediate vicinity of airports until further notice. It is not permissible to overfly assemblies of people in the Open category. This also applies to drones with a flight weight of under 250 g.
  • Flying traditional models: The EU Regulation allows sufficient scope for exceptions for flying traditional models until the end of 2022. The regulation of future operations will be developed in close cooperation with the Schweizerischer Modellflugverband (Swiss Model Flying Association [SMV]). However, the future registration and restriction areas (see FOCA's RPAS map) will also apply to flying traditional models.
  • Model aircraft pilots who do not fly within an association or club are subject to the regulations for the Open category.
  • The new Regulation stipulates pilot registration, online training and online examinations for most operations in the Open category. Swiss legislation does not currently stipulate any training obligation for drone pilots. The completion of courses and examinations has to date been based on voluntary participation on the part of the respective pilots. With the adoption of the EU Regulation, Switzerland must be able to demonstrate a training solution that includes online training and an online examination. Unfortunately, it is not possible to recognise any courses already completed or any certificates already acquired on a voluntary basis when the switch to the new system is made. However, care will be taken to ensure that the future solution costs as little and takes up as little time as possible for the Open category.

Flying drones in FPV mode (pilot with drone goggles and an observer standing next to him with the drone in his direct visual line of sight [VLOS]) may continue as before.

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 on unmanned aircraft systems and on third-country operators of unmanned aircraft systems will be adopted on 1 July 2020. This Regulation primarily affects manufacturers, importers and retailers of unmanned aircraft. The FOCA will provide further information on the adoption of this Regulation in the coming weeks.

If you have any specific questions regarding the Open, Specific or Certified categories, please refer to our FAQs on the new drone Regulation. These FAQs will be updated at regular intervals.

 

Specialist staff
Last modification 16.06.2020

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Please note: FOCA is not responsible for dealing with drone-related issues that are subject to private law and data protection
legislation, e.g. disturbance of the peace, undesired filming, protection of privacy.

The Drone guide

helps to identify drone pilots whether they are allowed to fly in desired zones without restrictions. In addition, it also indicates which permits may have to be obtained.

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