Drone Industry in Switzerland: Everything You Need to Know

Drone Industry in Switzerland
  • Switzerland is one of the world’s best hubs for the development of drone technology.

  • The multi-stakeholder approach and its most prominent entities of the drone industry as driving force for the drone industry.

  • Switzerland as the first country in Europe to use U-Space – a new airspace management system for drones.

  • Forget Silicon Valley; Drone Valley is the cradle of drone innovations that wow us.

With the rapid development of drones, their potential to be used for good becomes more apparent. Countries like China, the USA, Australia, France and many others race to invest in the technology and stimulate innovation in the industry. Switzerland is among the elite driving forces of the drone industry. In fact, the Swiss drone industry is known for it’s multi-sector approach and involvement of partnering institutions. Together with friendly regulations, hefty investments in education, and R&D, it’s evident why the country has such a reputation for being one of the drone technology leaders.

What’s more, the worldwide drone market has generated 22.5 billion dollars in 2020. In 2025, the numbers could reach between 42.8 billion dollars and 45.8 billion dollars, according to other predictions. It is estimated that the Swiss drone market will bring in 11 million dollars of this revenue in 2020. That’s around 1.26 dollars per capita. From this, it’s clear why many consider the market to be one of the leaders in Europe and even the world.

One of the Leaders in the Development of Drone Technology

Switzerland is one of the leading locations for developing drone technology and applications. Thanks to many different factors, the country has built itself up in this field and become known as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Europe. These factors spread across various fields.

Drone Industry in Switzerland - key factors

First, Switzerland is home to some of the best technology and engineering universities in the world. When it comes to systems that operate without man or robotics, a couple of high education institutions lead the way. These include University of Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), and Lausanne (EPFL). These schools focus on practical education so that their engineers join the workforce already trained.

As a result of the extensive history of making watches, there is a deep knowledge of electronics, robotics, mechanics and the like. This expertise is backed by relevant resources that serve as the basis for many new processes and innovations. The Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) specializes in the design, integration, process, and packaging of drones and related systems and technologies.

Switzerland is a hive of companies that manufactures drones, supply parts, components, and develops innovative drone applications. Many of these companies are startups with immense growth potential.

Finally, the friendly regulations and rules for flying drones play an important role for the future of the Swiss drone industry. As authorities support drone innovation and progress, the companies are granted the needed authorizations for producing and testing UAVs. What’s more, they can freely see their inventions in action outside the city, on airfields for military and civilians, in innovation parks, and even right at their doorstep.

Stakeholders of the Drone Ecosystem in Switzerland

Professional Drone Usage in Switzerland

While often used in recreation, drones have also found their place in many professions and companies. The rate at which Swiss companies and institutions use drones, from both the private and public sectors, continues to increase.

Around twenty-four percent of these private companies tend to use drones for making movies. A staggering twenty-one percent operate with drones for use in aerial photography. Other areas include cartography and land surveying, agriculture, control of infrastructure, and others.

drone usage of private companies in Switzerland - drone industry in Switzerland

“Over the past few years, Zurich has become the world’s leading location for the development of the core technology for drones, i.e. software, autopilot, and sensors.”

– Kevin Sartori, co-founder of Auterion

The public sector, however, uses drones in a different way: for aerial observations and surveillance activities. Aerial photography and cartography are popular as well. In third place is drone support for missions on the ground, measuring the air quality, movie-making, and more.

Drone industry in Switzerland - drone usage of public companies

These pieces of data have been confirmed by a survey from MAPS (Maison d’analyse des processus sociaux). Surveys likes these help by shedding light on the usage habits and behavior of drone operators. So, it’s evident that the potential for the future development of the industry is great and there is still space for more to be done.

Drone Industry Map: An Overview of the Main Players in the Drone Industry in Switzerland

Many companies and institutions in Switzerland ensure safe, smooth, and efficient commercial operations of drones. The drone industry in Switzerland combines entities from different sectors to do this. From regulators and manufacturers to organizations from the humanitarian and entertainment industry and many others.

The Drone Industry Association maps out the Swiss organizations that work in the field. It represents, supports and promotes its members that offer and export drone related services and products with Swiss origin.

Source: Drone Industry Association Switzerland, 2020

Some of the start-ups that are making waves in the innovation of the drone industry in Switzerland are senseFly, Fotokite, Flyability, Gamaya, RigiTech, and Voliro.

Many international companies have become interested in Swiss start-ups. Especially the ones that manufacture products and provide services for drones. A few buyouts even occurred. An example of that is the French company Parrot buying out senseFly.

SenseFly is one of the most influential companies in drone software development and manufacturing. Its aerial-mapping drones and aerial-mapping systems are used all over the world. Among the software solutions, one can find eMotion. It’s a flight management system that helps drone operators plan, simulate flight, and fly their drones more efficiently.

Additionally, Parrot is another very familiar name in the drone industry. In recent years the company has been increasing its market share in the commercial drone niche. From producing wireless gadgets for cell phones and cars to some of the most popular drone models, it’s one of the companies to watch out for. Unsurprisingly, it’s been considered as one of the drone companies with impressive expected growth on the stock market in the upcoming period.

Also, one can’t talk about drone software without mentioning one of the leaders in photogrammetry software – Pix4D. Its groundbreaking software takes images taken by a hand, from a plane, a drone, with a phone or any other device. Then, it transforms them into digital and customizable results, which can be applied in many industries. For instance, it’s been very popular for mapping, construction, mining, and similar.

Further, the country is home to several drone associations and networks in this industry whose role is to promote the versatility and importance of drones and involved organizations. Besides the Drone Industry Association mentioned above a few others are: Global UTM AssociationSwiss Aerospace ClusterHome of Drones. Undeniably the annual conference Swiss Robotics Industry Day is one of the landmark events for the industry.

It is worth mentioning the presence of the World Economic Forum in the development of the Swiss industry.

Advanced Infrastructure for Growth of the Industry

What is U-Space – the New Air Traffic Management System for Drones?

In mid-September, 2017, an unusual drone demonstration in Switzerland attracted the public eye. For the first time on the European continent, people could witness drones using U-Space services. These services are a part of the new airspace management system, which is specifically designed for drones.

Generally, the automated system U-Space outlines a complete digital infrastructure, sets of services and procedures that will help drones fly safely and efficiently all across Switzerland and Europe. Thanks to U-Space, drones will be able to fly in the lower airspace and beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS). The system connects manned flights as well as relevant authorities, providers of ATM services, and similar. In short, the project will enable complicated commercial drone operations even in urban and densely-populated areas.

Source: GUTMA

E-identifying and e-registering of drones, geofencing services are among the first services to be rolled out. After that, the ability to plan the flight with the air traffic authorities and get approval, and tracking and monitoring services are next in line. The plans for the system even introduce services for help in detecting conflicts and more.

The company Skyguide is behind this innovative system. It has the support of the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), too. Not just in the country, the project is considered as a trailblazing one for the European Union. Once implemented, many experts believe that it will bring many benefits for drones and the entire industry in the long run.

Drone Valley – A Birthplace of Drone Innovation

Innovators in the so-called Drone Valley are responsible for most of the advancements in the industry. Drone Valley sits between the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne, and is the source of more than 2,500 jobs within the 80 companies that comprise the area. Even start-ups from the USA tend to move their work there.

Since innovation is the driving force behind places like this, many unique drones make their first flight in this vital element of the drone infrastructure in the country. Engineers work tirelessly on increasing the efficiency of these gadgets and revolutionizing appearance and features.

Of course, this is a bumpy road with many challenges to overcome. For starters, people want to fly drones at longer distances and experts in the valley are focused on finding ways to make new drones faster. Given that most drones currently on the market have a battery life of around 20-30 minutes, extending battery life is also a focus.

Another challenge that researchers are increasingly faced with is size and portability. Because of this, some of the innovative models are foldable and can fit in a variety of small spaces. These are usually suitable for rescue missions since they can enter anywhere, including places inaccessible by other means.

Source: EPFL

Speaking of rescue missions, the scientists in EPFL are developing a drone that looks like a bird. It has the agility of the animal and the inspiration for it was the goshawk. Thanks to its wings and tail made to mimic feathers, the drone can turn without issues and adapt its speed.

Sources: Dronistics (Left), Alessio Romeo/Moncler (Right)

Another drone innovation that originates from the valley is the cage drone. Flyability and Dronistics developed this type of drone. It already accompanies search-and-rescue teams. Additionally, it can deliver emergency kits to trapped individuals and folds down entirely to be carried anywhere.

Final Words about the Drone Industry in Switzerland

When we look forward to what the future holds for drone technology, one thing is certain: it is here to stay. Drone markets are expected to grow even more and absorb more drone innovations. Some say that we can expect greater automation and witness a rise in drone usage in more versatile industries.

The Swiss drone industry will most likely follow suit. Being the home of more than twenty successful drone companies, we can anticipate even more revolutionizing drone technology to arrive. What’s more, the country has plans for advanced airspace digitalisation. Stronger collaborations around drones between the public and the private sectors are also expected go gain popularity. Further, drone racing is on the rise in Switzerland. Many global drone racing events are starting to be organized there, one of them being the DCL 2020 finale.

Switzerland wows with its wonderful nature and landscapes, offering the chance for drone hobbyists to take beautiful aerial photographs and videos . Plus, the drone-friendly laws encourage them to do so.

We at The Drones World are excited to see what is to come in the Swiss drone industry. Stay tuned and read more drone-related stories on The Drones World.