Regulation 2019/947 and regulation 2019/945 were adopted this January (2023) in Switzerland and will bring major changes. These regulations are within the existing framework of the bilateral air transport agreement. Switzerland and the European Union harmonised their regulations for the international aviation sector through a Joint Committee.
The Joint Committee determined that the regulatory framework applicable to aircraft without occupants (drones, model aircraft and other such devices) EU Reg. 2019/947, which was already in force in the European Union, will enter into force in Switzerland on January 1, 2023.
This is great news for drone operators and manufacturers in both countries as these regulations signal a major transformation for the industry.
We’ve asked Lorenzo Murzilli, CEO of Murzilli Consulting, to give us an overview of what these regulations mean and what we can expect to change for the Swiss drone industry in the future.
Book our regulatory training directly to hear more from our experts.
Although the regulations went into effect this January, there is still time before they’re fully enforced. That transition period is set to last until the 1st of September, 2023; however, depending on an organisation’s long-term operational goals in Switzerland or the European Union, these regulatory changes might have a larger or smaller impact.
While it might already seem clear from introducing new regulations, drone operators who operate only in Switzerland will have to navigate different legal requirements than before.
While this might, at first glance, seem like a negative, it’s actually extremely good news. Swiss drone operators and manufacturers can launch their operations in the European Union without additional regulatory hurdles through these harmonised regulatory frameworks, which reduce the time and financial resources needed to navigate EU regulations, approvals and permissions.
Operations in the Swiss open category, while no longer possible, will fall under the specific category once these regulations are implemented. This also means that if a pre-defined risk assessment doesn’t apply to you, it could mean going from the open category into full SORA, which many find is unjustified for some smaller operators.
Still, for a majority of drone manufacturers and operators who are already operating in the specific category and looking to expand to the European Union commercial market in the near future, this streamlines the process and removes additional barriers that used to be in place when operating in Switzerland and the European Union simultaneously.
In addition to these lifted barriers, most Swiss standard scenarios will no longer be applicable, so they will no longer be issued. Instead, European-wide standards will be put in place, making operations across Europe possible. For those who already have Swiss-issued standard scenarios, these will be valid until the end of 2025.
Pilots in the A1 and A3 categories (and likely the A2 category as well) will have to go through both practical and theoretical training, which will be more specialised and difficult than these trainings previously were, but were still a much-needed adjustment.
European regulators and urban city governments also see this as a valuable additional safety precaution, which justifies the new training requirements for drone pilots.
The benefit of these harmonised and more comprehensive regulations is that drone operators and manufacturers can use this new regulatory framework to expand their products and services to the entire European market without the need to jump through additional regulatory hoops.
As mentioned above, these regulations will allow drone operators all over Europe to operate in Switzerland as well, so the benefits open the European Union to not only Switzerland but also Switzerland to the European Union.
This also applies to the light UAS operator certificate, which can be granted in Switzerland and used freely throughout Europe.
Before these regulations were implemented, many drone manufacturers were limited in their organisational strategies to just Switzerland. If someone wanted to start building their operations in the European Union, this meant going through a series of specific permissions and approvals, which can take a long time to achieve.
Now, manufacturers must only obtain design verification from EASA or type certification, depending on organisational requirements. A design verification report will attest to the quality and reliability of the drones they manufacture and sell commercially.
The design verification report will also help all drone operators who purchase and use a manufacturer’s drone achieve their approvals faster, which might be a major selling point for an organisation’s strategy.
In addition to the design verification report, all manufacturers will be required to obtain Class Marking, or CE marking, for their drones. This will be required for drones operating in the open category and the specific category as far as standard scenarios are concerned, but this regulation will come into place at the end of December (2023), so until then, operators are still able to operate in the open category without class markings.
Lorenzo’s message to manufacturers was,
“They need to gear up and start planning their activities, plan their CE marking, plan their design verifications, and can forecast what kind of operations their drone is able to perform”
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