Switzerland will implement the new EU rules on unmanned aircraft as of June 2020. The details are currently being elaborated. The Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA) has stated that the operation of model aircraft in the framework of clubs and associations will be largely based on the current rules.
Under the current rules, all unmanned aircraft lighter than 30kgs may be flown without a permit within visual line of sight. For aircraft heavier than 500gr a permit is required for flights within a 5km range around airports and heliports, as well as higher than 150m above surface in air traffic control zones. In addition, the use of unmanned aircraft heavier than 500gr is not allowed near emergency response efforts or over or within 100m from groups of people. To operate a model heavier than 500gr, each operator is required to have a personal liability insurance with a minimum coverage of CHF 1 million, and must carry proof of insurance.
Implementing the new EU rules; state of play
The Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA) is in the process of setting up a working group to elaborate the new rules. The Swiss Aeromodelling Federation (SMV) will be invited to participate in the work of this group. The SMV has made it clear that it will apply for an authorisation to allow activities in the framework of clubs and associations in Switzerland to continue to operate under the current rules pursuant to Article 16 of the EU Implementing Regulation. The SMV is working with the FOCA to ensure that it will be able to fulfil the registration obligation for its members and has indicated that it would like to also be able to provide for the registration of non-members who are aware of and agree to comply with the requirements of the Article 16 authorisation. The SMV is furthermore working with partner organisations in EU Member States to ensure that its members are able to continue to fly in those countries, under the requirements of the Article 16 authorisation in those countries.
The overview below refers to the current legal framework and is likely to change for the period after June 2020, following the implementation of the EU requirements.
There are currently no age restrictions or registration requirements for the operation of unmanned aircraft in Switzerland.
To operate an unmanned aircraft heavier than 500gr, each operator is required to have a liability insurance that covers incidents with a minimum coverage of CHF 1 million, and must carry proof of insurance. A number of household liability insurances include this in their standard coverage and will be able to provide proof of insurance. Members of the Swiss Aeromodelling Federation (SMV) are automatically insured through the SMV.
No permit is required for the operation within visual line of sight of unmanned aircraft lighter than 30kgs. The operation of aircraft heavier than this, or outside visual line of sight, requires a permit from the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation.
A permit is required for the operation of unmanned aircraft between 500gr and 30kgs within visual line of sight in the following areas:
- within a 5km range around airports and heliports;
- higher than 150m above surface in air traffic control zones (CTR);
- near emergency response efforts or over or within 100m from groups of people.
In addition, the operation of all unmanned aircraft is not allowed within protected areas (e.g. nature reserves) and the use of cameras or recording equipment must respect privacy rules (i.e. don’t fly over inhabited areas). There may also be temporary or local restrictions for the operations of all unmanned aircraft.
A map with current flight restrictions can be consulted at: https://www.bazl.admin.ch/bazl/de/home/gutzuwissen/drohnen-und-flugmodelle/drohnenkarte.html
The main association for model aircraft pilots is the Swiss Aeromodelling Federation (SMV) (https://www.modellflug.ch). The SMV is a division of the Swiss Aero-Club (https://www.aeroclub.ch). With around 8000 members in 186 model flying clubs, the SMV represents the interests of model pilots and clubs at national level vis-à-vis authorities, regulators and institutions. The SMV is organised in seven regional model flying association. Members of the regional model flying associations are the model flying clubs of the respective region. The SMV offers comprehensive liability insurance for its members.
Further information and useful links
- Swiss Aeromodelling Federation (SMV): https://www.modellflug.ch
- Page on the latest regulatory developments: https://www.modellflug.ch/DE/cont/20
- List of model aircraft clubs (SMV members): https://www.modellflug.ch/flugplatzuebersicht.aspx?Region=0&lang=DE&contid=130
- Swiss Aero-Club: https://www.aeroclub.ch/
- Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation homepage on unmanned aircraft: https://www.bazl.admin.ch/bazl/de/home/gutzuwissen/drohnen-und-flugmodelle/allgemeine-fragen-zu-drohnen.html
- Map with flight restrictions in Switzerland: https://www.bazl.admin.ch/bazl/de/home/gutzuwissen/drohnen-und-flugmodelle/drohnenkarte.html