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Drones - five things you should know

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Drones are in vogue – from hobby pilots to professional entrepreneurs – more and more photo and movie enthusiasts are using these flying objects. But not every drone pilot knows the most important rules and hazards.

The market research company GfK announced in February 2018 that around 73,200 drones were sold in Switzerland last year. It is estimated that around 100,000 Swiss households now own one or more drones.

Do you already own a drone or are you thinking about buying one? You will find the most important information and tips here so that you can enjoy your drone safely and free of damage for as long as possible:

Maintaining visual contact with the drone is essential

Without a permit from the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), drones with a maximum weight of 30 kg may only be flown with visual contact. This means that you must always have the drone in your field of view during flight. It can be very helpful if you as drone pilot have a helper. You can then always keep an eye on the drone together, and your helper can warn you in case of danger and offer support generally.

A permit from FOCA is needed if you want to fly your drone using binoculars or virtual reality glasses. You can avoid the need for a permit if, here too, you have a second person with you to maintain visual contact and to assume control of the drone in the event of an emergency.

Please note: Drones are forbidden as follows!

Generally, for security reasons, FOCA also states that drone pilots may not fly over crowds of people (several dozen persons standing close together) unless at a secure distance of at least 100 meters.

Before every flight, you should ensure that you are allowed to fly your drone in that place. Because in Switzerland so-called restricted zones have been  defined. These restricted zones are located primarily at civil and military airports, but also above certain wetlands and migratory bird reserves, as well as Swiss National Parks. Different flight bans or restrictions apply depending on the restricted zone.

There are also restrictions regarding flight altitude. As engine-powered aircraft must comply with a minimum altitude of 150 meters, it is recommended that you do not fly your drone more than 140 meters above ground. Please also inform yourself about the various cantonal and municipal guidelines.

Respect privacy when flying drones

According to a survey carried out by AXA, around two-thirds of the Swiss population feel disturbed by drones. It is important, therefore, to note certain points if you want to take pictures of people with your drone. In Switzerland, every person has the legal right to their own image. Therefore, it is important that, if people's faces are recognizable in the photographs, you ask the people concerned for their permission. Please note that flying low over private properties can result in property owners regarding this as an intrusion into their privacy, possibly also due to noise disturbance. If in any doubt, it’s best to obtain your neighbors’ consent before flying over their gardens.

Drone pilot's license under discussion

The European Union is currently discussing whether, in the future, amateur and professional drone pilots must acquire a license to fly. If such a law enters into force in Europe, Switzerland would follow. At the moment, drone pilots in Switzerland can voluntarily gain certification with the Swiss Federation of Civil Drones (SFCD). However, according to the SFCD, only around 250 pilots have acquired a license up until now.

If  loss or damage occurs 

Even if you keep to all the rules and guidelines and follow the tips, your drone may still crash. This is not only annoying, but can also cause significant damage to objects as well as the drone itself. Swiss law states that drones weighing up to 500 grams do not have to be insured – however, we at AXA also recommend insurance for smaller models. Heavier drones must be covered under liability insurance for an insurance sum of one million Swiss francs. In the last few months, we have created a comprehensive insurance policy for you offering the best protection against damage. If your drone crashes, we will replace it within 48 hours.

As prevention is an important part of our corporate philosophy, we have organized a drone workshop for photographers on June 16. Interested persons can obtain information in workshops and specialist presentations and test various drones. Here is some feedback about the event:

Important information about drones

  • Frequently asked questions about drones (source: FOCA)
  • Code of Conduct of the Swiss Federation of Civil Drones
  • Self-check for drone permit
  • And these are the most popular drones with a weight of well over 500 grams GoPro Karma (1950 gr), DJI Phantom 4 (1380 gr)
  • Are the weather conditions right for your next drone flight? The UAV Forecast app tells you everything you need to know, from weather forecasts to information on wind speeds, GPS satellites and no-fly zones.
  • First-ever drone congress at ETH Zurich, with a first for Europe: demonstration of «Swiss U-Space», the first nationwide aviation management system for drones from Skyguide and AirMap.
    To SRF report (in german)
    To NZZ report (in german)

How to insure drones

  • Privately used drones that weigh less than 500 grams are covered under personal liability insurance against liability claims .
  • Accidental damage to privately used drones can be insured under household insurance with supplementary coverage for  
    «loss and damage».
  • Accidental damage to commercially used drones can be insured under engineering insurance.

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