According to Matt Julian, Director USA of the Greater Geneva Bern area (GGBa), Switzerland is the Silicon Valley of robotics. He kicked off the four-part “Virtual Swiss Drone Industry Tour” webinar series by making this claim. The webinars are being broadcast in collaboration with the Greater Zurich Area (GZA) via the digital channels operated by both location promotion and marketing organizations.
In the first webinar held on November 16, the focus was on the regulatory environment of Switzerland, which was described as incredibly future-oriented by Manu Lubrano, President of the Drone Industry Association Switzerland (DIAS): “Switzerland has the most advanced drone regulations in the world”, Lubrano explained further, adding that this is of utmost importance when it comes to launching innovations. New technologies in connection with the drone industry are reliant upon regulatory freedom in order to realize further developments. The DIAS now has a wide range of members, as Lubrano adds: “We have at least one company from every drone service that is currently available”. The DIAS works closely with Swiss regulatory bodies for its existing members and future stakeholders in order to develop the legal basis for new drone applications.
Close cooperation between authorities and businesses
Marcel Kägi, Co-Director Innovation and Digitalization at the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), shares Lubrano’s assessment of things: “In Switzerland, the authorities work very closely with the industry”. This relationship has been incredibly fruitful up to now. The authorities primarily see themselves as promoting the interests of public safety and support drone technology companies in their efforts to launch new innovations in the market. The team working at FOCA includes experts with legal backgrounds in addition to those from areas such as engineering and communications. “We view our role as analytical, proactive observers”, explains Kägi. The aim is to match the development of the Swiss drone ecosystem. For this reason, the FOCA draws up legal texts in conjunction with businesses.
A good example of this joint development process is pilot project with Matternet. This California-based company has been awarded the world’s first permit to conduct flights out of sight over a city. “We are writing new laws with regard to a global standard”, says Kägi. To this end, the FOCA is pursuing new approaches to develop new legal texts. In this context, the government body has drawn up the SORA (Specific Operations Risk Assessment) framework, among other measures. Here, applicants independently test the necessary security measures and, in so doing, are able to propose innovative new solutions. The authorities examine the proposals and approve them provided that the necessary requirements are fulfilled. In this way, innovations from the rapidly expanding drone market lead to the introduction of pragmatic regulations. “The FOCA sees itself as an enabler of innovation”, Kägi explains. For this reason, the organization is committed to working closely with the industry.
Swiss ecosystem has the beating of both the USA and China
Kevin Sartori is also of the belief that Switzerland offers the right environment for its companies. The co-founder of the world-leading software platform Auterion has returned from the USA to establish his firm in Switzerland too. The start-up’s core focus has been on the PX4 autopilot system, which the company is now further developing on a continual basis. “These days, Auterion maintains the largest network of vehicles and payloads”, Sartori states. He puts his firm’s success down to its location: alongside elite universities, Sartori also attributes the speedy progress made to the dual education system. In particular, this supports talents that are essential to the rapid realization of innovations. According to Sartori, this is just one of several factors that currently make Switzerland such a fertile breeding ground: “The Swiss ecosystem is even stronger than that seen in China or the USA”, he states.