Drone registration 2020: here’s what you need to know
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Drone registration 2020: here’s what you need to know

Dominik Bärlocher
Zurich, on 20.03.2019
Pictures: Manuel Wenk
Translation: Patrik Stainbrook
Starting in the summer of 2020, you will have to register your drone. The Federal Office of Civil Aviation is currently working out a set of laws to regulate the currently anarchic state of these vehicles.

Presumably, any drones over 250 grams will have to be registered with the state from the summer of 2020, reports Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag. The article by financial editor Birgit Voigt details the current problem: «As neither pilot nor aircraft currently require a license, wrongdoing mostly goes without consequences.»

Flying drones isn’t without dangers. Let me give you an example: on the 20. December 2018, the English airport Gatwick was at a standstill. The reason: a small drone was buzzing around the take-off and landing strips. The New York Times, supported by police reports, referred to this as a «deliberate incursion», an intentional disruptance in air travel. Traffic was locked down for hours, hundreds of flights couldn’t lift off and tens of thousands of passengers were stranded for a time.

The drones’ flight data will be directly fed to the flight radar through the smartphone.
The drones’ flight data will be directly fed to the flight radar through the smartphone.

«Without integrating these participants in the current airspace, catastrophes will only be a matter of time,» Birgit Voigt writes, referring to the subject being looked at by the Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA).

Out with the paper trail, in with the app

Up to now, any drone flights up to 30 kilogrammes didn’t require a license. As long as the pilot could see their drone, that is. Anything above that needed to go down a paper route to get permission and even call an authority before lifting off. This will be a thing of the past, as FOCA is currently testing an app that should integrate all drones into the flight radar without interruption. You can look at this radar here at FlightRadar24.com.

This is the current plan: you will be given flight permission in a few clicks after registering using an app called U-Space. Here’s a video showing the functionality of a demo version starting around minute 9:37.

The drone’s position will be determined by the GPS of your controlling device, be this a smartphone or tablet, which you use to steer the drone. Most modern drones have an integrated navigation system, which allows them to follow commands such as «Follow» or «Come Home» on their own. This means the communication mechanism between controller and drone knows where it is located at that moment. This data is supposed to be fed into the app and transmitted to the flight radar.

Who is registering what?

Registering a drone shall be done online, as NZZ am Sonntag claims. «Applications will be done online. The operators are relying on the willingness of pilots to enter their location data into the system,» Birgit Voigt writes.

All drones over 250 grams shall be affected. Here’s a quick summary of what different drones look like, so that you won’t have to weigh your aircraft.

Drones under 500 grams

Mavic Air Onyx Black (4K)
Dji Mavic Air Onyx Black (4K)
H501A X4 Air Pro Wifi (Full HD)
Hubsan H501A X4 Air Pro Wifi (Full HD)

Drones between 500 and 1,500 grams

Disco FPV (Full HD)
Parrot Disco FPV (Full HD)
Phantom 4 Pro+ (UHD)
Dji Phantom 4 Pro+ (UHD)

Drones between 1,500 and 2,500 grams

Typhoon H Advance (UHD)
Yuneec Typhoon H Advance (UHD)
Powervision PowerEgg (UHD)
Powervision PowerEgg (UHD)
Multicopter Hexatron FPV (Full HD)
Revell Multicopter Hexatron FPV (Full HD)

Drones above 2,500 grams

Inspire 1 V2 (UHD)
Dji Inspire 1 V2 (UHD)
Matrice M600 Pro (4K)
Dji Matrice M600 Pro (4K)
Nincoair Shadow HD (HD)
Ninco Nincoair Shadow HD (HD)

This isn’t a complete list. If you’re still unsure, I recommend weighing your drone with a common kitchen scale. Here’s a tip: if you’re drone looks cooler than a common toy, you’ll probably have to register it.

How the police will get access to drones’ flight data is still unknown, according to NZZ am Sonntag.

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Dominik Bärlocher
Dominik Bärlocher
Senior Editor, Zurich
Journalist. Author. Hacker. A storyteller searching for boundaries, secrets and taboos – putting the world to paper. Not because I can but because I can’t not.

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