Drones and model aircraft may not be operated near gatherings of people or beyond direct eye contact. However, the FOCA may issue a permit for such flights under certain circumstances. Here it is essential to allow sufficient time for preparing an application and submitting it to the FOCA as early as possible.
For safety reasons, it is prohibited to operate drones and model aircraft within a radius of 100 metres from gatherings of people (i.e. groups of several dozen people). Operating a drone beyond direct eye contact (e.g. equipped with devices such as binoculars or video goggles) is also prohibited.
To qualify for an exemption from the FOCA, a safety test is required. Standard procedures may be applied for certain operations, and these procedures are being constantly supplemented. For operations that cannot qualify for a standard procedure, a complete safety test in accordance with the JARUS Guidelines on Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) is required.
Depending on how much processing is required, a SORA permit costs at least 90 Swiss francs. Due to the high demand for permits, applicants should allow for a processing time of at least four weeks.
The standard procedure for requesting permits for filming and photographing minor private events primarily applies to events such as weddings, etc., at which the participants are known and it may be assumed that they have been informed about the use of a drone and will obey the instructions of the organiser or operator (“pilot”) of the drone and his/her assistant(s).
The main criteria for this procedure are:
- Defined general conditions
- Specified requirements regarding the drone
- Specified requirements regarding the operator and assistant(s)
- Defined procedures in the event of a technical fault
For the operation of a drone above a gathering of people and at a distance of less than 100 metres from the gathering, a simplified procedure applies as long as the drone is securely tethered at a specified location and the device cannot endanger anyone in the event of loss of control.
The following application form has to be filled to receive an authorization.
To assist the FOCA, photos, sketches and information about the manufacturer of the drone should be enclosed where possible.
The standard BVLOS procedure – monitoring and measuring – is intended for operation below 150 metres above the ground for the purpose of filming and photographing. Here, operation beyond the direct visual line of sight of the pilot is permitted as long as airspace observers are deployed. The task of these observers is to ensure that approaching aircraft can be recognised at all times. The maximum permissible distance between the observer and the drone is 2 kilometres.
The standard procedure for professional FPV races allows an event organiser to organise and hold FPV races in Switzerland. The permit is issued to the event organiser and allows the participating pilots to operate their drones beyond direct visual line of sight within a defined and secured race circuit.
The use of drones for spreading substances from the air requires a permit. The application requirements depend on the type of drone used and the product spread.
When spreading phytosanitary products, the drone must be approved for spreading substances on the ground. If it is not, it may be certified by Agroscope. The technical certification inspection for spreading substances on the ground is carried out by Agroscope. However, it is necessary to obtain an operational permit from the FOCA for this type of drones.
In order to request a permit, you must meet the requirements of the standard procedure and send the following form to the FOCA:
Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA)
- A detailed description of the planned activity (what? where? when? duration?)
- A detailed description of the technical system (drone, control station, data link, etc.)
- An analysis of the risks associated with the planned activity for people and objects on the ground (this should include any potential risk for the environment)
- An analysis of the risks for other aircraft that may be in the vicinity
- A detailed description of how potential risks are to be avoided
- If auxiliary devices are to be used, a description of what happens if the equipment concerned should malfunction, plus an assessment of its reliability
- Description of emergency procedures
The applicant must be familiar with the standard verification procedure used in civil aviation for inspecting safety-relevant systems. In order to receive the updated SORA Guideline, please contact FOCA (email@example.com).
In addition, applications for permits must be accompanied by an insurance certificate in accordance with Article 20 of the DETEC Ordinance on Special Categories of Aircraft.
The FOCA has the option of issuing permits not only for a single event, but also for a lengthier period of time. For the latter, both the nature of the operation and the associated risks always have to be the same, and the operator must always fully comply with the terms and conditions of the permit.
Depending on how much processing is required, a SORA permit costs between 90 and 5000 Swiss francs. Due to the high demand for permits, applicants should allow for a processing time of at least three months.