Stop your neighbor from hitting the roof What is my drone allowed to do?

Stop your neighbor from hitting the roof What is my drone allowed to do?

Every generation has its toy: In the 1980s it was the Walkman, in the 1990s it was the Gameboy and in the 2000s it was the iPod. Nowadays, drones are the must-have gadget for technology lovers. But watch out: Drones are not just fun; they can also cause a lot of trouble.

Model airplanes are a thing of yesterday; the sky above Switzerland is now full of drones. Their camera function makes them even more attractive. Even cheap models create astonishingly good aerial images or deliver entire film sequences. Yet there are no clear rules about what you can and cannot film.

Photos of landscapes are fine, as is your own property, but even your neighbor must be asked for permission when it comes to their land. Passersby must also give their consent before they can be photographed if they are recognizable.

Beware of bikinis!

It is unambiguously forbidden to spy through windows and balcony doors in secret: Every person has the right to privacy, and nobody wants to be filmed or photographed showering or wearing a bikini without being asked. Company premises and military facilities are also taboo, as are hunting-free nature reserves and bird protection areas. Drones can also be dangerous for airplanes. For that reason, an exclusion zone of five kilometers exists around all Swiss airports. From a height of 150 meters, your drone could also encounter manned light aircraft, helicopters or hot air balloons – with fatal consequences.

My colleague's wedding film was illegal.

Filming from cloud nine? Better not

Sweeping through the air like an eagle: Virtual reality glasses make it possible to experience everything from the perspective of the drone. However, objects in flight may only be flown with visual contact: In other words, there must always be a person there watching the drone who can take over the remote control if necessary. Since 2014 it has also been forbidden to fly a drone over groups of more than 24 people. The exemption permit required to get around this rule is almost impossible to obtain from the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (BAZL). This puts paid to romantic wedding films from cloud nine in most cases.

Drones gone astray

All drone pilots are firmly convinced that they have their aircraft under control. But what happens if a drone does get out of control and crashes into a car or even injures a person? Damage caused by small drones weighing up to 500 grams is covered by personal liability insurance. Heavier specimens up to 30 kilograms require special model aircraft cover by law, with a sum insured of at least one million Swiss francs. Drone owners must have proof of insurance to this effect with them for every flight.

Drone accidents are not merely theoretical possibilities, by the way: At the Madonna di Campiglio ski race, skier Marcel Hirscher was almost struck by a TV drone that had got out of control. It crashed onto the slope right behind him during his run and was smashed to pieces. Anyone watching the video of the incident will see that the drone was enormous and could have severely injured the skier.

Should every pilot be registered?

Because drones are so popular, the safety risk is increasing. For that reason, there is an increased discussion in Switzerland going on about a registration obligation, such as exists already in other countries. A transponder that would make drones visible for radar is also being discussed.

Further information is available from

the Federal Office of Civil Aviation
the Swiss Association of Civilian Drone Owners

Play it safely

Personal liability insurance is a matter of course nowadays. It at least covers the cost of damage caused by small drones weighing less than 500 grams. Anyone flying a heavy drone is required by law to have additional insurance cover for model aircraft. Before acting as a pilot, clarify whether you are insured. By the way, with Zurich you benefit from comprehensive protection: Even large drones are included in the basic cover provided by personal liability insurance. One call is enough to get the prescribed proof of insurance, which you must carry with you when using drones weighing over 500 grams.