“Drones are just brilliant!” enthuses 17 year-old David, a student in Vevey. “I’ve asked my parents to give me one for Christmas”. He may be disappointed. With more and more mini-drones being flown throughout the country, the government recently initiated a ban to prevent them from being flown over populated public areas. Events such as this week’s near-miss between a drone and an Airbus at London’s Heathrow airport will probably result in ever-tightening rules.
A basic drone can be bought for as little as CHF 100 (or perhaps for a little more in Switzerland) so they are priced within many people’s budget. And they may probably be the most fun present boxed up under the tree.
But beware, before you rush online and buy the latest, most powerful and advanced toy for the boy, you might be wasting your cash. The Swiss government, in the form of the Office fédéral de l’aviation civile (OFAC) has introduced stiff legislation to control drone use.
The use of drones over public areas had in fact been banned since August of this year. As Marco Cortesi, Zurich city spokesman explained to ZDNet, one person is already facing legal action for having used a drone to film the harbour crane on Limmatquai.
Since drones are likely to cross borders, Switzerland like other countries outside the EU, will be affected by the European Commission’s proposals for a pan-European framework to govern their use. The EU regulations will cover air safety; privacy; data protection; security (to prevent drones being used as weapons); and third-party liability and insurance schemes for when the worst happens. In the meantime OFAC’s rules governing flying a drone in Switzerland are simple and clear. To gain an exception to any rule you need to apply for a special permit. Le News understands that the granting of exceptions is highly unlikely.
- The main limitation is that your drone should not weigh more than 30 kg. This includes cameras, battery packs and any other ancillaries.
- All flights by drones within 100m of a group of people (24 or more people) are banned. This basically means that they cannot be flown in any urban area.
- Any drone pilot must have direct eye contact with the drone at all times, and that distance cannot be extended by using binoculars or cameras.
- Fully automated drones are not permitted – they must be directly controlled by a pilot.
- Drones may not be flown within 5 km of any civil or military airport or airfield.
- Individual privacy must be respected at all times.
So before buying, consider whether you can fly it safely and without risk. It might be worth checking with your insurance company if you are covered in the event of causing an accident.