Not a long time ago I bought my first drone to have more possibilities in my photography work. After a while, I can tell you that the drone is an amazing addition to my photography gear and gives me a lot of new possibilities. Admittedly, sometimes I just flew around with my DJI Mavic Pro because it is TOO MUCH FUN! When I do this, I honestly feel like a little kid playing with a toy. I will probably never grow up in those cases. However, let’s come to the point: There are restrictions for drones all around the world – and also if you plan to fly drones in Switzerland. In general, there are not that many rules (yet) – but it is very important to know them. In my first days, I broke some rules myself, without even knowing it. I will tell you everything you need to know about drones in Switzerland.
General rules for drones in Switzerland
Generally speaking drones in Switzerland underlie the same legislation as a model aircraft if their weight is between 0,5kg to 30kg. You don’t need a permit for drones under a weight of 30kg (which would be weird to transport in a plane by the way) if you observe the following rules:
- You must be outside of all protected zones (more below)
- There must be visual contact with your drone during the whole flight
- Operations are only allowed at least 5 kilometers away from civil aviation or military runways
- The minimum distance to a group of people (24 or more) has to be 100 meters or more
- Take care of the rules that protect the privacy (you can’t film a person or their property)
- You need to be insured for damages with your drone for up to 1 Million Swiss Francs
You see, the rules are manageable but still, very important to know. I heard of some cases were drone pilots had to pay huge fines when they were caught. Alle these rules apply for the most-used drones like the Mavic Pro or the Phantom.
You might think: “What the hell is an RPAS Map?” I thought the same! However, the interactive RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) Map will be your best friend when trying to fly with drones in Switzerland. It shows you all locations in whole Switzerland where special rules or restrictions apply. This includes all airports, military runways, protected nature zones, hunting grounds and other protected areas. Before you start your drone you can check the map, that is an official source, right here. They also provide an application for your smartphones. For example, it is not allowed to fly drones in Interlaken, Zermatt or Lucerne. If you want to do it anyways you can make a request for an exception. In my opinion, it is pretty hard to get one if you’re not connected with some sort of media.
Can I use VR?
Yes and no. There is not a rule against the use of a Virtual Reality system in general, yet there are some restrictions that make the use of it almost impossible if you don’t want to put a lot of effort into it. You will need a second “pilot” that has eye contact with the drone at any time of the flight and can take over the control if he needs to. Other than that it is just possible with a special permit.
Drones under 500g – No rules?
There are also several drones that weight less than the “magic number” of 0,5 kilograms. The DJI Spark is probably the most famous one and also has amazing reviews. But can you use it everywhere without any rules? No, of course not, we are still in Switzerland and have a lot of rules! Though it is true that there are way fewer restrictions than with general drones in Switzerland. For instance, you can, in theory, fly your drone everywhere except in nature conservation zones that are marked on the RPAS Map. In comparison to a heavier drone, it is also allowed to fly your drone above a gathering of people, as long as you have eye contact to your drone. However, you are always responsible for possible damages!
There is one more thing that you have to consider: Every village or city can make his own rules and even forbid the use of drones. There is one city that did exactly this: Flims in Graubünden. It is famous for its beautiful lakes and attracted many drone pilots to fly around there. So they decided to forbid drones in some specific areas. So far this is the only city that has a rule like this though.
As the article comes to an end, I also want to mention that it’s important to know these rules – not only for safety reasons but also because there are many people that think you do something illegal and even want to hit you or call the police (both happened to me!). Be careful and also respect the rights of other people and our environment. If you have any questions or experiences to share feel free to comment below.
Last Update: 21.01.2018