The parliament currently discusses a motion which instructs the Federal Council "to exclude traditional model aircraft when adopting Regulation 2019/947 and to leave it under national law". Depending on the outcome of these deliberations, a further delay may occur as Regulation EU (2019/947) does not make a distinction between drones and model aircraft. Therefore, it is not clear at this stage how the adoption of the Regulation will be compatible with the exemption requested in the motion and when the regulation will enter into force in Switzerland. Until that date, the existing national rules will continue to apply.
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 pilots in the open category. Pilots have to register on an official registration platform (UAS.gate). After registration, pilots will also have to undergo online training and an online test to familiarise themselves with the new rules. In Swiss legislation, the completion of courses and exams was previously based on the pilots' voluntary participation. The courses and certificates already acquired voluntarily cannot be recognised when switching to the new system. The link to the registration, training and examination platform (UAS.gate) will be published on this website by the FOCA at the end of the year. Pilots will be granted a transitional period for registration and completion of the examination. There is no need to purchase training materials or attend additional courses, as the online training offered by the FOCA is tailored to the exam and includes all the necessary topics. The expected time required for registration, online training and online examination is approximately 3 hours, with costs ranging from CHF 30 to CHF 60.
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.
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.
Last modification 06.10.2020