Latest Drone Laws in Switzerland

According to the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), Switzerland’s National Aviation Authority, flying drones in Switzerland is legal. 

Switzerland adopted drone laws set by the European Union. So, according to the latest drone laws in Switzerland, you must abide by Switzerland’s specific laws and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations to operate your drone.

Based on the risks associated with their operations or flights, drones in Switzerland fall into three categories: Open, Specific, and Certified (more on this later). 

Switzerland residents and visitors must abide by the laws and procedures of the category of their drone.

This article offers crucial information regarding Switzerland’s latest drone laws based on the drone category. So, read to the end. 

Latest Drone Laws in Switzerland

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) regulate drones in Switzerland.

Though drone use in Switzerland is legalized, drone users must abide by the EASA and FOCA regulations. 

Based on the drone operation or flight risk level, drones in Switzerland fall under one of the three categories below:

  • Open
  • Specific
  • Certified

Read on as we discuss.

  1. Open Category 

This is the lowest-risk category of drones. Low-risk commercial and leisure drones fall in this category.

The take-off mass of drones in the Open Category must never exceed 25 kg. The drone must fly at a maximum altitude of 120m and remain within the line of sight.

You don’t need prior authorization from the competent authority to fly drones in this Category. 

Subcategories of the Open Category

There are three subcategories under the Open Category:

  • A1: You cannot fly over assemblies of people, but you can fly over people. 

  • A2: You’re allowed to fly close to people

  • A3: You must keep off people  

Acquaint yourself with the laws governing your subcategory and get the necessary training before any flight. 

You don’t need operational authorization if you comply with the relevant laws governing Subcategories A1, A2, and A3, but you must meet the following conditions:

  • Drone must have sufficient insurance coverage: The coverage limit varies from country to country.

    For instance, in Austria, a European country, your insurance must be valid, and the coverage must be 750,000 SDR or more. 

  • Provide proof of competency: You must possess an A2 and A3/A1 certificate, depending on the drone’s Subcategory. Your competency must also be seen in your skills:

    • Your drone must never exceed 120 meters AGL (Above Ground Level) 

    • You must always maintain the drone in the VLOS (Visual Line of Sight)

    • Your drone should never drop any material or carry life-threatening goods.

      Must be a registered drone operator: If you’re not an EU resident, register the drone in the EU Member State where you plan to operate it.

      For example, register a drone in France if you plan to operate it there. Register your drone in the EU Member State where your business is located (or your main residence) if you’re an EU resident.

      Next, contact the Aviation Authority in your member State for more information.   

As of January 1, 2024, all drones in the Open Category must have a privately built label (which means you didn’t buy it; you built it for your personal use), a C4, C3, C2, C1, or C0 class identification label.

If the drones were in the market before December 31, 2023, they don’t need a class identification label. 

The C0 Drone Class Label includes DJI (Multi-rotor) drones such as the Mini 3, Pro Fly More Combo, Mini 2 SE, 3 Pro, and Mini 4.

Drones with the C1 Class Label include DJI (Multi-rotor) drone models such as Cine V2.0, AIR 3, Classic, and MAVIC 3 V2.0.

C3 Drone Class Label examples include Quantum-Systems’ (fixed wing) such as Trinity F90+ and DJI’s (Multi-rotor) Matrice 350 RTK. 

Below is a Table of EASA Open Category Classification and Drone Operational Requirements with effect as of January 1, 2024:

Drone Category
Operation Subcategory
Minimum Age of Remote Pilot
Drone Operator Registration
Drone Operation Restrictions
Remote Pilot’s Competence
-Drones bought prior to 1/1/24 (under 250 g) and those privately Built
– A1 (fly over people; avoid assemblies) -You’re allowed to fly in Subcategory A3
-No age limit
-Only required if the drone has a sensor or camera or if it’s not a toy drone
-Avoid flights over assemblies of people -You can fly over unconcerned people (Avoid whenever possible)
-You don’t need any training
-C0 (drone weight is under 250 grams)
-A1 (fly over people; avoid assemblies) -You may fly in Subcategory A3
-No age limit for drone toys -16 years (12 years for some States)
-Not necessarily if it’s a toy drone and there’s no camera or sensor onboard
-Flight altitude must be below 120m AGL -Don’t fly over assemblies -Avoid flights over uninvolved people (otherwise, minimize overflight)
Adhere to all C0 Drone Operation Restrictions (left column).
-C1 (drone weighs less than 900 grams)
-A1 (fly over people; stay away from assemblies) -Also flies in Subcategory A3
-16 years (12 years for some States)
-Your drone must be registered
-Avoid flights over unengaged people (in case you do, minimize overflight) -Flight altitude must be below 120m AGL -Don’t fly over any
-Carefully go through the manual guide -Get the ‘open subcategory for A1/A3 proof of successful completion of online training’ after you:>Finish the online training and pass the
-C2 (below 4 kg)
-A2 (You may fly near people) and in Subcategory A3
-16 years and above (may be lowered to 12 in some States)
-You must register your drone
-Flight altitude must be less than 120m AGL -The horizontal distance should be 30m from unengaged people (or 5m when you activate the low-speed function) -Avoid flying over unengaged people
Carefully go through the manual guide Have a ‘Proof of completion for online training’ for the A1/A3 (open subcategory) by: >Successfully finish the training (online) >Pass the theoretical (online) exam
Drones bought before 1/1/24 (below 25 kg) and those privately built
A3 (fly away from people)
16 years (12 years for some States)
Drone registration necessary
-Flight altitude must be less than 120m AGL -Never overfly unengaged people -Horizontal distance of 150m from urban areas and unengaged people
-Carefully go through your user manual -Have a ‘Proof of completion for online training’ (for the A1/A3 open subcategory) by: >Complete the training (online ) >Pass the theoretical (online ) exam

If you want a drone, order one whose class identification label aligns with your operations. 

As of January 1, 2024, Open Category drones with class marks must operate with an updated, active remote identification system.

Should Pilots in the Open Category Be Registered?

Yes, all Open Category operators must be registered if they have:

    • Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) weighing not more than 250g


    • The UAS aren’t toys and have a microphone or a camera

    • Operating speed is more than 90 km/h

NOTE: A toy drone is usable by children aged 14 years or younger. It should meet the lowest safety criteria to be considered a toy drone.

Toy drone’s capabilities are limited because they lack a powerful motor, don’t use dangerous spare parts, and are small and light. 

Drone Registration in Switzerland

The European Regulation (EU) 2019/947 States that all UAS operators (not the systems) must be registered.

The company or individual overseeing operations and giving flight instructions is the UAS operator. 

The remote pilot (PR)/pilot must ensure safe flights during operations. Open Category operators may be referred to as pilots and vice versa.

How to Register as an Operator or Drone Pilot in Switzerland

Find the operator registration procedure here. Follow the same procedure to renew your UAS operator registration number annually, as its validation expires after one year. 

Your operator number doesn’t change when you renew your registration. It remains the same until you deregister the drone. 

Non-EU Residents Operator Registration

You don’t need to register as an operator if you have previously conducted drone flights in other EU nations before going to Switzerland.

Register as an operator if you have never operated your drone in any EU nation and are from a non-EU nation. 

Upon successful registration, you receive a unique Operator Registration number. You must attach the registration number to your drone (and any other you have) so that the authorities can see it easily.

In Switzerland, the minimum flight distance from helicopters/airports is 8 km, and you should always avoid NO FLY ZONES. 

The European Union (EU) Resident Visitors

As a Switzerland visitor (or resident), you MUST adhere to the rules and procedures of your Category and operate within its limitations. 

If you don’t have a remote pilot certificate or have never been registered, based on your drone flight Category, do so in Switzerland or your home country before conducting any flight operations. 

Suppose you have a remote pilot certificate or are registered in another EASA member state or country of residence.

In that case, your RPC and registration remain valid in Switzerland. You must strictly abide by the rules of the operation governing your drone flight Category. 

Switzerland Drone Insurance

To operate drones commercially in Switzerland, you must have insurance with coverage not below 1m EUR. 

Hobbyists must not have insurance, but it’s recommended. 

Non-EU Residents Remote Pilot Certificate

If you’re a non-EU resident but want to fly a drone in Switzerland, you must have a pilot certificate from one of the EU nations. 

Register with the online remote pilot school for the A1/A3 certification. To operate your drone under Subcategories A1/A3 of the Open Category, complete the online training, sit for the exam, and attain a pass mark of 75% or more. 

After that, you get a remote pilot certificate, which you must always have when conducting flights in Switzerland. This certification expires after five years.

If you fail the test, you have a maximum of three tries to pass. 

  1. Specific Category 

Drones in this category are considered to have a mid-level or moderate-level risk. So, you must have permission from the relevant authority before flying the drone. 

The authority conducts an operational or flight risk assessment to determine the mitigation measures.

However, assessment isn’t necessary if the operator’s declaration satisfies the relevant authority. 

Legal persons should register in the country where their business operates. In contrast, natural persons should register in their country of residence.

When Should You Register for the Specific Category?

Drones in this category have higher risks; hence, their legal framework is tailored based on the operation’s risks.

You need the Specific category if:

  • You’ll operate your drone Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS)

  • You’ll drop goods from the drone

  • Your drone weighs more than 25 kg

  • You’ll conduct operations without a class identification label

  • You’ll fly your drone beyond 120 meters altitude 

  • You will operate a drone exceeding 4 kg in urban areas

Specific Category Drone Authorization

The National Aviation Authority (NAA) authorizes Specific Category drone flights. Several exceptions apply, though, as seen below:

To determine the objectives and risk mitigations required, use the Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) for custom operations since the Predefined Risk Assessments (PDRA), which ease the authorization process, don’t cover your operations. 

PDRA is only useful if you use your drone for delivery, agriculture, infrastructure, and other everyday drone operations. 

Specific Category Drone Design Standards

For safety, there are requirements for higher-risk operations:

  • For intrinsically hazardous flight operations, you must have a formal certification

  • Design Verification Reports (DVRs) confirm whether the UAS design complies with the relevant Operational Safety Objectives (OSOs).
  1. Certified Category 

This is the highest-risk category. Therefore, you must be a licensed remote pilot with drone certification. Drones that carry passengers fall under this category. 

The laws and requirements of Certified Category flights may be similar to those governing manned aviation. 

To operate in the Certified Category, the RP must have a pilot license. In contrast, the UAS operator must have air operator approval. 

Conclusion 

Most of the drone operations in Switzerland fall under the Open Category, which we have comprehensively covered.

Keep your flight altitude within the limit, stay out of the no-fly zone, and abide by all other Switzerland drone operation laws and requirements.

Follow the Certified or Specific Category rules if your drone doesn’t fit in the open category.

Author
Peter Karanja

Peter is a licensed drone pilot and drone fanatic. He owns a DJI Air 2S that he uses to shoot videos for fun, enjoyment and for clients.

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