Model flying in the European Union
From 1 January 2023, Switzerland applies the EU rules for unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Switzerland's application of the EU drone rules brings two important changes for pilots who are based in Switzerland and want to fly in the EU:
- Registration: From 1 January 2023, pilots residing in Switzerland who need an EU registration to fly in EU countries must register with the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) in Switzerland. Any prior entries in the registry of an EU member state should be deleted. A CH registration will now be recognised in the EU. You can register via the FOCA's UAS Gate. Registration is not required for model aircraft pilots who wish to fly their model aircraft exclusively in Switzerland.
- Open Category A1/A3 Competence Certificate: In several EU countries, model aircraft pilots need a certificate of competence for the open category A1/A3. The conditions when this certificate is required vary from country to country. For pilots who wish to fly in an EU country, we recommend that they obtain such a certificate in good time. Unlike registration, a certificate of competence can be obtained in a country of choice. From 1 January 2023, certificates issued in Switzerland will also be valid throughout the EU. A Swiss certificate of competence can be obtained from the FOCA's UAS Gate: https://www.bazl.admin.ch/bazl/en/home/drohnen/verstaendnishilfe/uasgate.html
Important note, the UAS Gate speaks of "drone testing" - this is the A1/A3 proof of competence.
Compulsory registration in the EU
Since 1 January 2021 for model aircraft pilots in the EU must register themselves in their country of residence. Through this registration the pilot obtains a registration ID number (e-ID). The registration number must be affixed to all model aircraft weighing more than 250 grams (or less than 250 grams with a camera). Very important for scale modelers: The e-ID number does not have to be visible from the outside of the model. It is sufficient if it is also attached under the canopy or in the battery compartment. There are no regulations regarding the material and size of the ID number (the German requirement to affix a fireproof plate with name and address no longer applies).
What does that mean for us?
Be sure to register before flying in the EU! From 1 January 2023, pilots resident in Switzerland must register there. Any existing registrations in other EU countries should be cancelled. You can register via the UAS Gate of the FOCA https://www.bazl.admin.ch/bazl/en/home/drohnen/verstaendnishilfe/uasgate.html. Registration is not required for model aircraft pilots who wish to fly their model aircraft exclusively in Switzerland.
Flying at local clubs in the EU
In most EU member states, the rules for flying in clubs are changing or have recently been changed. It is important that you check the requirements well in advance of your trip. This is to ensure that there is enough time to acquire for example any required certificate of competence. The best way to find out what the requirements are is to contact the club where you want to fly or visit the website of one of the national associations.
Flying outside of local clubs and events in the EU (e.g. slope flying).
The rules for flying outside official club airfields differ in the individual EU member states. In a number of EU countries, you fly in the so-called open category. For this, in addition to registration, you need a certificate of competence for the A1/A3 category. Unlike registration, a certificate of competence can be obtained in a country of choice. From 1 January 2023, certificates issued in Switzerland will also be valid throughout the EU. A Swiss certificate of competence can be obtained from the FOCA's UAS Gate.
Attention: Stricter national regulations
In several EU countries, the new EU legislation has been used to significantly tighten previous national regulations. This is the case in France, for example, where in addition to pilot registration, each model must also be registered, and in some circumstances each model aircraft must carry an e-identification.
What does it all mean for competition pilots
All competition pilots must register in Switzerland and affix this number to their models prior to competition.
It is also strongly recommended to check well in advance with the organiser of the competition for any additional national regulations and how best to comply with them.
The following must be observed:
In case of non-compliance with the laws and regulations, an insurance company can reduce the coverage or cancel it altogether! (This goes for all insurance companies)
This applies not only to Allianz (SMV), but also to private liability insurance.
Before flying in the EU:
- Register in Switzerland and apply for the e-ID number and apply it to your models.
- For most countries pilots should also obtain an A1/A3 certificate of competence (can be obtained in Switzerland or in the EU).
- Check with the national association or local club any additional requirements and regulations.
The homepage of the European Model Flying Union (EMFU) offers a summary of the national model flying legislation for various EU countries and links to the national associations and other sources of information.