The following rules apply to all drones:
- You must be at least 12 years old to pilot a drone
- You must register if piloting a drone equipped with a camera
- Always maintain direct visual contact with your drone
- Fly no higher than 120m above ground level
- Keep a suitable distance from people who are not involved in flying the drone
- Do not fly over assemblies of people
You should make sure that your drone has a CE marking. This is mandatory in the EU and Switzerland.
Almost all drone operators must register with the Federal Office of Civil Aviation on UAS.gate. Drones weighing less than 250g are exempt from this, but only if they are unable to collect personal data. This means that all drones with cameras must be registered, as they can record faces and thus collect personal data. Registration is free and requires a CH-Login.
Anyone piloting a drone that weighs 250g or more must take an online exam. The training and examination take around four hours. You must answer at least 75% of the exam questions correctly to pass. The certificate is valid for five years. If your drone weighs between 900g and 4kg you will need to sit the exam on site. Certificates from other EU countries are valid in Switzerland and vice versa.
There are three main categories: open, specific and certified. Most drone flights take place in the open category. In this category, all drones are assigned a class (C0 to C4), which in turn determines the operating class (A1 to A3). As of 2023, drones in the open category are no longer permitted to fly over assemblies of people. If your drone does not have a class identification label, you are subject to slightly different rules.
If you are unable to meet the requirements of the open category, you must fly in the specific category and require an authorisation from the FOCA.
There are some areas of Switzerland where flying a drone is forbidden or only possible with a permit, for example near airfields, nature reserves and hospitals. You can consult the FOCA drone map and the swisstopo app to find out which areas you can and can't fly in, and which areas are subject to restrictions. The app is also able to determine your location. You can find out who to contact for an authorisation by clicking on the relevant area of the map.
If you do not register as a pilot or fly without the necessary authorisation, you are in violation of the Federal Act on Civil Aviation. This may mean you have to attend further training, have your licence withdrawn, pay a fine of up to CHF 20,000, or even go to jail. The amount of the fine is decided by the court on a case-by-case basis as, unlike with road traffic, there is no penalties catalogue.
In Switzerland drones weighing 250g and more require liability insurance covering at least CHF 1 million. It is also recommended you take out such insurance for lighter drones.
In the open category you are generally not permitted to fly over assemblies of people, for example at weddings or public events. Your drone's operating class determines how close you can fly to people who have not been informed of the drone flight and security precautions, and have not given their consent.
Even on a smaller drone, the rotors can cause serious harm. If a drone crashes, it can injure people on the ground. Low-flying drones can cause animals to panic. You should therefore always take people and animals into consideration when flying your drone. If other aircraft such as helicopters and planes are in the air, land your drone.
There is no general complaints body for prohibited or nuisance drone flights. It is best to speak with the person flying the drone. If that does not help, you can complain to the police.