Switzerland plans drone register

The government estimates that more than 100,000 drones have been sold to amateur pilots in Switzerland in recent years. Keystone

Tens of thousands of drones are flying over Switzerland unregistered and often undetected. Now the authorities are trying to put an end to their uncontrolled use.

This content was published on March 17, 2019

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Civil Aviation is planning to make it compulsory for drone operators to register themselves and their equipment possibly as soon as next year, the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reportedExternal link, citing a ministry spokesperson.

Such a register has been under discussion at least since 2017, in part due to the rapid rise in private ownership. The spokesperson said that the country would adapt to new European Union regulations that require drones weighing more than 250 grams be registered starting next year.

So far, the use of drones weighing less than 30 kilograms and which remain within eyesight had been largely tolerated in Switzerland. Restrictions apply for high-risk areas such as airports or public gatherings. 

But monitoring is difficult and without a registration system, it can be difficult to identify and prosecute reckless or inexperienced amateur pilots. The increasingly affordable tiny machines can easily cause damage or disrupt air traffic. 

A working group that includes Geneva airport is racing to find solutions as drones have caused havoc and forced the closure of air space in other countries. In December, hundreds of British and international flights had to be diverted or cancelled when drones flew over London’s Gatwick Airport.

Switzerland is ahead of EU regulators in testing a system that would allow the surveillance of the newly registered drones.

The Skyguide, a Geneva-based aerial navigation service provider, recently began testing the integration of drones into an aerial surveillance system in the cities of Geneva and Lugano, the NZZ report said. 

Skyguide’s system, U-Space, allows drone pilots to submit their flight plan via an app. The pilots then receive either an authorisation or a request to change their route. 

Discussions on how the police would gain access to such data are ongoing, the report said. 

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