Air safety – Drones and model aircraft

In recent years, drones have become widespread, bringing to light new issues related to the use of airspace, as well as the protection of privacy as most drones are equipped with cameras. The Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) has issued rules for the use of drones and model aircraft; here are some of the key elements:

  • The pilot must maintain permanent visual contact with the drone.
  • Autonomous flights are permitted only within the pilot’s field of vision and he must, at all times, be able to regain control of the aircraft if need arises.
  • Aerial shots are allowed subject to the specific regulations regarding the protection of privacy.
  • In principle, it is forbidden to use drones less than 100 meters from an outdoors gathering of people (that is more than 24 people).
  • The holder of a drone weighing more than 500 grams must contract a liability insurance policy for the amount of one million francs at least.
  • Drones are subject to flight restrictions in the vicinity of airfields. It is thus prohibited to use this type of aircraft at less than 5 km from runways.
  • You will find more information on the FOCA’s website.

Any overflight of the EPFL campus by aircraft weighing less than 30 kg requires specific authorization to be requested from the DSPS (safety, prevention and health domain) via the authorization request form, at least 5 working days before the flight. Priority will be given to flights related to research projects. The form is accessible only with a GASPAR account. For persons external to EPFL, please use this form.

For drones weighing more than 500 grams:

  • Flying higher than 50 meters above ground level: we remind you that additional authorization must be requested from the head of the Lausanne-Blécherette airfield, as the EPFL campus is located less than 5 km from the airfield (see map below). Each such authorization is subject to a CHF 50 fee since October 1, 2017. The name of the contact person will be given to you by email if need be.
  • Flying lower than 50 meters above ground level: the authorization granted by the DSPS is sufficient thanks to an agreement with the airfield.

Regarding liability insurance (compulsory for drones weighing more than 500 g):

  • For EPFL units (laboratories, departments, faculties, etc.), the School has contracted a liability insurance for drones weighing less than 5 kg. It is therefore not necessary to contract a specific liability insurance.
  • For the School’s host entities (associations, foundations, partners, etc.), it is on the other hand necessary to contract an insurance for drones weighing more than 500 grams.

Please address all questions or requests for further information by email to [email protected].

Zoom on the area within a 5-km radius of the Lausanne-Blécherette airfield