Swiss Drone Rules
The rules around FPV and drone regulations applicable in Switzerland are confusing. No website is providing a simple and accurate overview over the current and upcoming rules. Even the Swiss federation of civil drones or the SAFEDroneFlying are providing incomplete or misleading information. The best information source is the official website from the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (BAZL). Let me shed some light and provide you with an overview.
The below overview of the Swiss drone regulations is accurate as of May 2022. The rules in Switzerland are rather liberal compared to the rules in the EU:
1. Swiss Drone Regulations currently in place
The best overview of the Swiss Drone rules is found on BAZL's website. BAZL's FAQ is very handy. In short, you may fly drones up to 30kg if you:
- Do not fly closer than 5 km to airfields and heliports or more than 150 m above the ground in control zones (use the fly zone map to check the area you want to fly in).
- Be properly insured (have insurance coverage of > CHF 1 million, ask your home contents insurance, Hausratversicherung).
- Do not fly over or less than 100 m from groups of people (24 people or more).
- Do not fly FPV unless you have a spotter next to you or have direct eye contact with the drone.
- Avoid other aircraft in good time.
- Know and comply with the laws.
- Respect other people’s privacy.
- Do not fly in nature reserves.
- Never fly an aircraft that weighs more than 30 kg in flight (in Switzerland, you are allowed to fly drones heavier than 250g if you respect the rules above).
2. Where can I fly my drone in Switzerland?
There is an official map for Switzerland with drone flight zones with a 3 color scheme to help drone owners fly responsibly and safely:
- Purple = no fly zones (around airports & heliports)
- Blue = limited fly zones (150 m maximum height)
- Yellow = nature reserve (no flight permitted).
3. Future EU Drone Regulations applicable in Switzerland
- Switzerland has not yet adopted the EU drone regulation.
- The Federal Council is currently in discussions with the EU to exclude traditional model aircraft when adopting the EU Regulation and leave this category under national law.
- There is as yet no exact schedule for the next steps in the process (see approximate schedule on BAZL's website). It is uncertain when the implementation will happen. This can take several months to years.
- 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").
3.2 Overview of Key Changes
- Mandatory registration for FPV drones:
- >250g: Anyone operating a drone with a flight weight of 250 g or more must register and take an online test.
- <250g: Owners of drones under 250 g must also register if they are equipped with a camera. No restriction applies if the drone does not have a camera.
Maximum flight altitude: There is now a maximum flight altitude limit of 120 meters above ground. As before, the drone must be operated in direct visual line of sight or with a spotter who is able to take control of the drone immediately.
- Minimum age: The EU regulation provides for a minimum age of 16 years for the independent operation of drones. This can be reduced by the national supervisory authorities to a maximum of 12 years.
The main change is the pilot's obligation to register. I am never flying above 120m anyways because it's boring. Flying in close proximity around trees and obstacles is much more appealing. Thus, I do not see any issue with the upcoming EU regulation.
The above is a general overview of the rules and does not cover every detail. Please read the complete rule set on BAZL's website before you start flying FPV.