To increase security in the airspace and safeguard the flourishing drone ecosystem and preserve Switzerland’s leading position for drone research and innovation, Swiss regulation shall be adapted and an air traffic management system for drones shall be developed. The airspace shall be opened to drones!
New Regulation of Airspace for Drones
Swiss Parliament discussed a motion (Motion 18.3371) in the field of drones to establish the necessary basis for aviation safety and orderly operations and to promote the conditions for effective control and the rational use of such equipment. The aim is to create the legal framework for appropriate education and training of drone operators, registration and identification obligations and setting technical safety standards for all drones operated in Switzerland. The motion was approved by both chambers of Parliament (Nationalrat 15.06.2018; Ständerat 12.09.2018). The Federal Council supported the motion and is now in charge of drafting the bill.
Traditionally, Switzerland pursues a liberal and citizen and business friendly approach. A key matter of the bill will be the creation of a national drone registry that keeps the burden for operators (drones and model aircrafts) as light as possible. At the same time, the EU regulations set by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) shall be mirrored as closely as possible to ensure market access for the Swiss drone ecosystem.
On the technical level, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) supports Skyguide in its landmark project “U-Space” to create a digital and automated air traffic management system for drones. U-Space will become the first national airspace management system for drones in Europe with the goal of enabling and unlocking the massive potential of the drone ecosystem. U-space is the digital infrastructure that will support safe and efficient access to Swiss and European airspace for millions of drones. The purpose of U-Space is to ensure the safe opening of the airspace for drone operations in low-level airspace, beyond visual line of sight and in congested areas. It entails technical solutions for drone registration and safe control of the drone during operation. The first solutions to be implemented are e-registration, e-identification and geo-fencing. The reach of U-Space will not be limited to Switzerland; it will provide standards to build a digital unmanned traffic management infrastructure in Europe. U-Space is therefore recognized as a pioneer project for air traffic management technology not only in Switzerland but also in the EU.
The European Commission expects that the global marketplace for unmanned aircraft or drones will create more than 10 billion Euros in economic impact each year by 2035. U-space is a set of new services and procedures designed to support efficient and secure access to airspace for these large numbers of drones. U-space can ensure the smooth operation of all categories of drones, all types of missions and all drone users in all operating environments. It provides not only the framework for routine drone operations, but also an effective interface to manned aviation. The services are based on a high level of digitalisation and automation of functions, either on board of the drone itself or on the ground.