EU drone regulation in Switzerland

Status: 21.06.2021

Main points

  • 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.

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:

  1. Switzerland adopts the EU drone regulation in full with Article 16 or
  2. 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.

Specialist staff
Last modification 21.06.2021

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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
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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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