Drone Laws in Switzerland

Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in the Swiss Confederation (Switzerland)

Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA)

European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)


UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in Switzerland

NOTE: Switzerland has delayed the implementation of the EASA regulations until there is a resolution related to model aircraft. The delay in implementation means that during the transition drone regulations will continue to follow the currently in place FOCA regulations. Those current regulations are identified separately below.

The Swiss agency responsible for drone safety, FOCA, has provided several internet-accessible details on flying drones for fun or work. The highlights are enumerated below. For more details, go to the links above.

Flying and operating drones in Switzerland are subject to European Union Regulation 2019/947. The Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) supervises and implements the Regulation in Switzerland. This reform aims to create a truly harmonized drone market in Europe with the highest level of safety. In practice, it means that once a drone Οperator has received authorization from its state of registry, they will be allowed to circulate in the European Union freely.

According to the level of risk involved, this new legal framework will introduce three categories of drone operations: Open, Specific, and Certified.

Drone operations are to be conducted according to the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 and Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 (as amended).

Are drones allowed in Switzerland?

According to FOCA, drones are allowed in Switzerland, subject to FOCA and EASA regulations. Read on for details.

Here are the most important EASA rules to know for flying a drone in Switzerland:

Drone operators must register all drones in Switzerland. Following registration, you must adhere to the following rules.

  • Drones may fly up to 50 meters (170 feet) above ground or sea level in the Open category and up to 120 meters (400 feet) in the Special category. (The FOCA may grant exemptions to operators of special category drones.) 
  • Direct visual contact with the drone is required, and the operating distance should not exceed 500 meters. 
  • Avoid flying too close to residential areas or populated areas. 
  • Maintain a safety buffer zone of one kilometer around residential areas. 
  • Unless the owner/person consents, a safety distance of 500 meters from isolated buildings, people, vehicles, animals, and structures is required. 
  • Avoid flying near airports and heliports. Stay a minimum of eight (8) kilometers away from airports and three (3) kilometers from heliports for safety. 
  • At no time is it permissible to fly a drone at night. 
  • There shall be no flying over, within, or near military installations, public utility installations, archaeological sites, or public or private facilities.

Open Category

Given the low level of risk, neither prior authorization by the competent authority nor a declaration by the drone operator is required. The drone’s total takeoff mass must be less than 25kg, and it must be operated within a visual line of sight at a maximum altitude of 120m.

Special Category

Considering the moderate level of risk involved, flights in this category require authorization before the operation. The permission is given considering the mitigation measures identified in an operational risk assessment, except in specific standard scenarios where an operator declaration is sufficient.

Certified Category

Given the inherent dangers, certification of the drone and a licensed remote pilot are required. If your drone is capable of carrying people, you fall under the Certified category!

EASA Summary of Drone Flight Operation Requirements

EASA Summary Table of Drone Flight Operation Requirements
EASA Summary Table of Drone Flight Operation Requirements

EASA Note for foreign operators

Operator Registration (Non-EU Residents)

  • If you are coming from a non-EU country and this is the first time you will fly your drone in an EU country, you MUST register as an Operator.
  • Upon registration, you will receive a unique Operator Registration number which you MUST attach to your drone. If you have several drones, the same number must be attached to all of them.
  • You are not allowed to fly in NO FLY ZONES, and you must keep aways a minimum of 8km distance away from airports/heliports.
  • If you already conducted operations in another EU country before going to Switzerland, you must not register again. You always register to the first non-EU country you have conducted flights

Remote Pilot Certificate (Non-EU Residents)

  • If you want to fly your drone in Switzerland and live in a non-EU country, you must hold a Remote Pilot Certificate issued from an EU country.
  • You can get the A1/A3 Certificate by registering with the online Remote Pilot School.
  • The online training and exam are required for those who want to fly a drone in the ‘Open’ category in subcategories A1/A3.
  • The pass mark is 75%, and you have 3 tries in total to pass.
  • Once you pass your exam, you will receive your remote pilot certificate. Its validity will be 5 years.
  • You must have your Remote Pilot Certificate in your possession whenever you plan to perform drone operations in Switzerland and present it when asked by the authorities.

How to register as an EASA drone pilot or operator in Switzerland?

According to European Regulation (EU) 2019/947, registration is mandatory for UAS operators (not for UAS themselves).

The UAS Pilot, also known as the Remote Pilot (RP), is the person physically behind the UAS flight controls. They are fully responsible for the safety of the flight throughout operations.

The UAS Operator is the person or company who oversees operations and gives flight instructions. This person or legal entity bears all responsibility for the operations of the drone (s) on their behalf. Very often, in the OPEN category and as an individual, the Pilot and the Operator are the same person.

Who should register?

As part of the OPEN category, registration is compulsory for operators:

  • UAS that have a mass of 250 g or more; 
  • UAS that have a mass of less than 250 g but: 
    • are able to operate at speeds greater than 90km / h 
    • are equipped with a camera or a microphone, if these UAS are NOT toys * 

* A UAS is a toy when a manufacturer intends it for children under the age of 14 and meets the minimum safety criteria required to be so named. Compliance with these standards naturally limits the capabilities of the UAS (size, weight, non-dangerous spare parts, no powerful motor, etc.): see Directive 2009/48 / EC of 18 June 2009 on the safety of toys

Under the SPECIFIC category, registration is compulsory for all operators.

Natural persons can only register in the country where they reside.

Legal persons must register in the country where their principal place of business is located.

Registration can only be done in one Member State at a time.

How do you register in Switzerland for drone operations?

The operator registration procedure begins when FOCA implements EASA and identifies their online provider

This UAS operator registration number is valid for one year and must therefore be renewed periodically following the same procedure. The operator therefore always uses the same number unless the latter is permanently deregistered from the register.

Here are the most important current rules to know for flying a drone in Switzerland:

  • If the pilot maintains constant eye contact with their drone, they are not required to obtain a permit. 
  • A license from the FOCA is required if someone wishes to use technical aids such as binoculars or video glasses to augment the natural vision of the eyes. Learn more about the licensing process by visiting this page. 
  • Within the visual line of sight, the pilot may use FPV goggles or similar devices, provided that a second visual observer monitors the flight and can intervene at any time to control the aircraft. 
  • Automated flight (i.e., autonomous operation of a drone) within the pilot’s field of vision is permitted, provided the pilot can intervene at any time to regain control of the drone. 
  • Drones are not permitted to be flown within hunting or protected areas for water and migratory birds. 
  • Aerial photography is permitted if military installation protection regulations are followed. Attention must be paid to privacy protection and the Data Protection Act’s provisions. 
  • If you operate a drone weighing more than 500 grams (1.1 pounds), you must maintain insurance of a minimum of 1 million francs to cover any damage. 
  • The FOCA does not require approval for public air events involving only model airplanes or drones.

Current Registration Requirements

A safety test is required to qualify for an exemption from the FOCA and to register your drone. 

A comprehensive safety test per the Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) Guidelines is required for operations that do not qualify for a standard procedure. 

In this case, you should include the following: a description of your intended flight and the drone used to conduct it; 

  • a risk assessment & the measures that will be taken to ensure the safety of all parties involved if any auxiliary devices are to be used, 
  • a description of your contingency plan if your equipment fails during the operation & an assessment of its current reliability. 
  • a copy of the insurance policy that complies with the provisions of this law 

Depending on your operation’s test and scope, your drone’s certification will cost between 50 and 5,000 Swiss Francs. 

Allow a minimum of three months for the delivery of any permit.

Current Safety distances and flight bans

In Switzerland, you must maintain a 5-kilometer buffer zone around airports. 

A minimum of 100 meters shall be maintained between gatherings of more than 24 people. Drones may be flown over crowds at model sports events or airshows with prior coordination with the organizer. Avoid flying over military installations. 

Cantons and municipalities may enact additional rules. For example, in the Canton of Geneva, drones are prohibited within a 300-meter radius of public buildings. 

Alternatively, you can use the app “swisstopo” to locate other restricted areas such as nature reserves and bird reserves.


Notes for recreational drone pilots flying for fun in Switzerland

See general rules above.

Currently Applicable Hobbyists Regulations (until EASA implemented)

Private drone flying is permitted in Switzerland, but you must adhere to specific regulations. 

No special permission is required. 

Maximum Height Flown – 150m / 492ft.  If greater than 150m / 492ft  then a Special Permit is Required 

Maximum Range – The drone must always be visible (line-of-sight) 

Maximum Take-Off Weight – Weight 30kg / 66lb without special permission. If greater than 30kg / 66lb, special authorization is required

There is no requirement for a Competence Statement / License. 

In Switzerland, flying a drone is permitted only during daylight hours. Flights at night require special approval. 

There are no labeling requirements. 

Insurance for Drone Liability – Always required; a minimum level of coverage is required. 1,000,000 Swiss francs / approximately 1,005,210 US dollars 


Notes for Commercial Drone Services operations in Switzerland

See general rules above.

Currently Applicable Commercial Operations Regulations (until EASA implemented)

Commercial drone flying is permitted in Switzerland, but only under certain conditions. 

No special permission is required. 

Maximum Height Flown – 150m / 492ft.  If greater than 150m / 492ft  then a Special Permit is Required 

Maximum Range – The drone must always be visible (line-of-sight) 

Maximum Take-Off Weight – Weight 30kg / 66lb without special permission. If greater than 30kg / 66lb, special authorization is required

There is no requirement for a Competence Statement / License. 

In Switzerland, flying a drone is permitted only during daylight hours. Flights at night require special approval. 

There are no labeling requirements. 

Insurance for Drone Liability – Always required; a minimum level of coverage is required. 1,000,000 Swiss francs / approximately 1,005,210 US dollars 


Useful published information on flying drones in Switzerland

Here is a sample of what you might expect if you follow the drone laws and fly in Switzerland…

NOTE: Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS), Small UAS, Remote Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and drone are interchangeable terms unless specified. Model aircraft, toy aircraft, Remote controlled aircraft, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.


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IMPORTANT NOTE

The content on this site is collated by volunteers from public general information. This material is not presented as legal advice of any kind, and we cannot guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. Do not substitute the information you find here for legal advice from a licensed attorney who is authorized to practice in the jurisdiction. When in doubt, contact the local aviation authority responsible for drone safety, utilize a licensed drone service operator, and/or consult a qualified attorney.

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