Drones are remotely controlled, usually very small aircraft. They are subject to the same legislation as model aircraft. In principle, drones weighing less than 30 kilograms may be operated without a permit, as long as the operator (or “pilot”) maintains visual contact with the device at all times. It is prohibited to operate a drone above gatherings of people. The criteria for the operation of drones with a weight of up to 30 kilograms are specified in the DETEC Ordinance on Special Categories of Aircraft.
*** Safety note: DJI Matrice 210, May 25, 2019 ***
FOCA recommends that drone pilots of DJI Matrice 210 keep their aircraft well away from populated areas. It appears that this type of drone presents an increased risk of crashing. Until further notice, FOCA will not issue any authorization for this type of drone. FOCA will communicate as soon as the manufacturer has taken appropriate measures to eliminate this risk.
I fly my drone safely
I fly safely because
I know and comply with the law
The legislation applicable in Switzerland is the Ordinance on Special Category Aircraft (OSCA) 748.941. Drones, like model aircraft, are categorized as unmanned aircraft. The Federal Act on Data Protection governs the private sphere; in addition, drones are subject to flight bans in special nature conservation areas and to local restrictions.
I have complete control of my drone
Drones fly under fully automatic control. However, in the event that the automatic control fails, will I be able to steer and land my drone manually? Am I aware that low temperatures and high winds will influence how the drone reacts in the air? Do I perform a short, pre-launch check of the drone, in particular the rotors?
I respect other people’s privacy
The operation of drones is governed by the Federal Act on Data Protection and the right to privacy enshrined in Swiss civil law. I therefore never fly my drones low over private property or public sites where people gather.
I am not a danger to people or animals
The quickly spinning rotors of even the smallest drone can inflict deep cuts. If a drone crashes, people on the ground can be injured. Animals are easily panicked by low-flying drones, which can lead to secondary damages. It is therefore advisable to take in consideration animals when flying a drone.
I do not fly in nature reserves
It is prohibited to operate drones in hunting reserves and in water and migratory bird reserves of international and national significance. These areas are marked in yellow on the FOCA drone map.
I check with the local authorities about any flying restrictions
The canton of Geneva, for example, has introduced other restrictions for drones. Règlement concernant l’exécution de la loi fédérale sur l’aviation. Flight restrictions also apply during major events, such as the WEF in Davos and international conferences.
I avoid other aircraft in good time
The “see and avoid” principle applies to unmanned aircraft as well. Since an aircraft pilot stands little chance of recognizing a small drone early enough, it is my responsibility to take timely evasive action and always to maintain a proper distance from other aircraft.
I am properly insured
To operate drones weighing more than 500 g I am obliged to have insurance coverage of at least 1 million Swiss francs. Even with small drones, however, it is worth finding out what my third-party liability coverage is before launching them for the first time.
Without permission, I never fly
Closer than 5 km to airfields and heliports
More than 150 m above the ground in control zones
Airports and landing fields subject to air traffic control have what is known as a control zone, depicted in blue on the drone map. These zones serve to protect aircraft during takeoff and landing. Drones may be flown in control zones without Skyguide authorization only up to a maximum height of 150 m above ground.
Close to where emergency services are working
Flying a drone over the scene of an accident to take aerial pictures may impede a rescue helicopter from approaching the site. In addition, rescue services feel that their work is disturbed by drones. I therefore fly a drone in an emergency operation only when instructed to do so by the operation leader!
Over or less than 100 m from groups of people
The more closely people are packed together, the greater the risk that someone will be injured if the drone crashes. This is why such situations always require FOCA authorization. Simplified standard authorizations exist for weddings and company events.
Unless I have direct eye contact with the drone
Drone flights using video eyewear are authorized only when direct eye contact can be established with the drone at any time, as is the case with FPV drone racing. In all other cases, FOCA authorization is required. In the absence of direct eye contact, the risk is high that I’ll collide with another aircraft whose pilot cannot see my drone either.
An aircraft that weighs more than 30 kg in flight
Such professionally deployed aircraft must always be tested and authorized by FOCA experts.
Last modification 20.05.2019