New drone regulation from 1 January 2021

The adoption of European drone regulation was planned in Switzerland as of 1 July 2020. As a result of the Corona crisis, the EU Commission has decided that the application of Regulation (EU) 2019/947 will be postponed by six months to 1 January 2021. This means that the current Swiss regulation on the operation of drones will remain in force until the end of 2020.

The EU regulation distinguishes between three different categories for the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles. The vast majority of drones, especially in the recreational sector, are operated in the open category. This category regulates the operation of drones, which can be operated without a licence in principle because their safety risk is considered to be low. In comparison to the existing regulations, the following new rules will apply in addition:

  • In the open category, a maximum flight altitude of 120 metres above ground will apply. As before, the drone must be operated in direct visual contact. This means that the drone pilot must be able to recognise the flight attitude and direction of the drone at all times.
  • The minimum age for independent operation of a drone in the open category is 12 years. Younger children may only fly a drone under the supervision of a person at least 16 years of age who meets the requirements.
  • 250g instead of 500g is the new lower weight limit. This means that drones under 250g have to avoid nature reserves and areas in the immediate vicinity of airports until further notice.
  • Crowds of people may no longer be flown over in the open category, and this also applies to drones under 250g flight weight.
  • Traditional model flight: For traditional model flight, the EU regulation allows sufficient leeway for exceptions until the end of 2022. The regulation of future operations will be developed in close cooperation with the Swiss Model Flying Association. However, the future registration and restriction areas (see drone map FOCA) will also apply to traditional model flying.
  • For model aircraft pilots who do not fly within an association or club, the regulations for the open category will apply.
  • The new regulation provides for pilot registration as well as online training and testing for most applications in the open category. Swiss legislation currently does not provide for any training obligation for drone pilots. The completion of courses and tests has so far been based on the voluntary participation of the respective pilots. With the adoption of the EU regulation, Switzerland must be able to demonstrate a training solution that includes online training and an online test. Unfortunately, the courses and certificates already acquired voluntarily cannot be recognised in principle during the changeover to the new system. However, care will be taken in the future solution to ensure that it is as cost-effective as possible for the open category and that it is not time-consuming.
  • Translated with (free version)

Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 on unmanned aerial vehicle systems will be adopted as of 1 July 2020. It primarily affects manufacturers, importers and dealers of unmanned aircraft. The FOCA will provide further information on the adoption of this regulation in the next few weeks.

For specific questions, also regarding the other categories, we refer to our FAQ on the New UAV Regulation. This will be updated at regular intervals.



Map of the Federal Office for Civil Aviation

Where can I fly everywhere?

The Federal Office of Civil Aviation will show you the zones with restrictions for model aircraft and drones and the official aeronautical map of Switzerland.