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Flying and insuring drones: Five tips

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The skies above Switzerland are full of drones: according to the Federal Office of Civil Aviation, 100,000 households already have at least one of the versatile flying objects. We have five tips on what you should consider when flying a drone, who is liable in an accident and how you can insure your drone.

Do you already own a drone or are you toying with the idea of buying one? Then find out the essential information and tips here so that you can enjoy your drone safely and without damage for as long as possible when you’re out and about:

1. Keep visual contact with your drone

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. Using binoculars or VR glasses explicitly DOES NOT count as visual contact: To do so, you need a permit from FOCA as a drone pilot. You do not need a permit if there is a second person with you to maintain visual contact and to assume control of the drone in the event of an emergency. 

2. Permit and flight license

The legal provisions for drones are relatively informal in Switzerland. A permit is not required for common hobby drones, only for those weighing more than 30 kg. From summer 2020, however, FOCA is considering whether to impose a registration requirement on drones weighing more than 250 g. The European Union is also 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 obtain voluntary certification with the Swiss Federation of Civil Drones (SFCD).

 

 

3. Insure your drone: What is obligatory, what is voluntary?

Generally speaking, you can insure yourself as a drone pilot against two things: Against liability claims, i.e. if you cause damage to someone else with your drone, or generally against theft, damage or loss of your drone. 

  • Liability insurance: For drones weighing more than 500 grams, such as a DJI Phantom 4, the law requires you to take out liability insurance for a sum insured of one million Swiss francs. Privately used drones weighing up to 500 grams are covered against liability claims through personal liability insurance
  • Electrical appliance insurance:  AXA offers special insurance for all your domestic electrical appliances. This also covers drones against damage, loss or theft. This insurance not only applies in the home but also outside the home and even when you’re traveling. If your drone crashes, you will receive a replacement within 48 hours. Electrical appliance insurance can be included in household insurance or taken out separately. 
  • Engineering insurance: If you use a drone commercially, you can cover own damage through engineering insurance .

 

4. Avoid prohibited areas with drones

Generally, for security reasons, FOCA 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, as 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. Find out more about the various guidelines applicable at municipal and cantonal level.

5. Respect other people’s privacy: What am I allowed to photograph?

A recent AXA survey showed that 60 percent of Swiss tend to find drones irritating and dangerous. However, the acceptance of drones depends crucially on its intended use. It is therefore important to take note of certain points if you would like to take images of people with your drone. In Switzerland, every person has the right to their own image. As soon as someone is clearly recognizable in an image, permission must be sought from the person in question.  Even on private land, people can feel uncomfortable if a drone flies over them at a low level - nobody wants to be filmed in their own garden without being asked. And the noise can also be annoying. If in any doubt, it’s best to obtain the neighbors’ permission before flying over their gardens.

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
  • Are the weather conditions suitable for your next drone flight? Use the UAV Forecast app to find out information on wind speeds, GPS satellites and no-fly zones in addition to weather forecasts.

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