Switzerland reports sharp decline in drone safety risk incidents

Swiss Post halts drone delivery service after second crash of Matternet drone

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has had profound effects on Switzerland’s aviation sector and the supervisory activities of its civil aviation regulator, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA). One outcome of the same has been a steep reduction in the number of safety risk incident reports and occurrences involving drones in the country.

According to FOCA’s Annual Safety Report 2020, drone safety-related occurrences in Switzerland declined from 79 in 2019 to 40 in 2020.

And what were these 40 incidents?

To begin with, there were 16 instances of drone sightings by aircrews. Two of these happened around hospital landing sites in Switzerland. Nine were related to sightings near aerodromes, including four within the perimeter of non-Swiss aerodromes. And in one of the cases outside Switzerland, the flight was forced to use a different takeoff runway.

Further, in 2020, drones entered into zones prohibited by the FOCA (such as the 5km radius area around aerodromes) at least 21 times. The safety report also reveals that 16 of these were multirotor drones.

The remaining three safety incidents came in the form of drone crashes, according to FOCA:

In one such case, one person was injured when a model aircraft crashed in Ottenbach, Canton Zurich. The cause of the crash was the operator’s loss of control over the aircraft after becoming blinded by the sun.

Development of U-Space system

In addition to providing the details of drone risk incidents, FOCA’s Annual Safety Report 2020 also highlights the progress being made in the development of Switzerland’s unmanned traffic management (UTM) system: U-Space. The system will enable the adoption of automated drone traffic management at both the national and the European levels.

Insisting that U-Space is being developed at an impressive, the report says:

A number of the parties required in Switzerland to operate the U-Space system have now teamed up under the Swiss U-Space Implementation (SUSI) public-private partnership. SUSI will not only enable U-Space to be developed and adopted on the basis of European provisions and in line with its overall objectives; it will also permit further trials and demonstrations to be conducted in Switzerland, such as automated traffic management among the drones registered by the various service providers.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that the adoption of European drone regulations in Switzerland has been delayed as a result of a motion seeking to exclude model aircraft flying from the same.

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