Federal Councillor Leuthard opens international drones’ congress: “Switzerland is playing a pioneering role in the research and development of drones”

Bern, 26.06.2018 - Today, Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard opened an international drone’s congress in Zurich that was jointly organised by DETEC and the World Economic Forum (WEF). In her address, she emphasised the important role of the federal government and the universities in the development of Switzerland’s drones industry. Switzerland is a leader in the field of drone technology due to pragmatic regulation by the federal government in combination with innovative research and comprehensive networking. More than 100 guests from the political arena, research and industry attended the inaugural meeting of the “Drone Innovators Network” that took place at the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich and has been organised in cooperation with Presence Switzerland. The aim of the congress is to provide a forum for discussing the global development of drones and formulating joint strategies for the future.

It is not by chance that the first international meeting of the WEF- “Drone Innovators Network” was held in Switzerland: in the field of research and development of drones, Switzerland is among the global leaders. Thanks to the involvement of innovative companies and universities in combination with a pragmatic approach to regulation by the Swiss authorities, which takes account of the various research and development needs, an environment has been created in Switzerland that is equally attractive for start-ups, companies and research institutions. “From the start, the federal government closely monitored the development of Swiss drone technology through close contact with researchers and the industry. Switzerland is thus playing a pioneering role in this area,” noted Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard in her opening address at the “Drone Innovators Network” meeting in Zurich. “It will continue to be beneficial for us to utilise the considerable potential of drone technology and appropriately promote exchanges and networking.”

In the drones sector in Switzerland there are currently more than 80 companies employing around 2,500 personnel. Swiss drones are in use in a broad variety of areas: security, transport of agricultural and medical goods, humanitarian aid in crisis regions, etc. In 2017, Swiss Post introduced the world’s first drone delivery service for commercial clients in Lugano. This involves the transport of laboratory samples between hospitals. A corresponding pilot project has meanwhile been initiated in Bern. The Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) has developed a method for the reliable identification of complex risks that is well on the way to being adopted as the global standard. Switzerland’s air navigation service provider, Skyguide, has developed a fully digitised airspace management system called “U-Space” that was successfully tested in Geneva with international partners for the first time in Europe. With their own projects, Swiss universities are also among the leaders, as the presentations of today at the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, clearly showed.

Moreover, the participants at the meetingof the “Drone Innovators Network” that was held at the premises of the Federal Institute of Technology in Hönggerberg, were treated to a European premiere: the first demonstration of the Swiss-wide “U-Space” system. Here it was shown how, thanks to “U-Space”, a large number of drones can be safely and efficiently integrated into lower airspace in Switzerland. Drones were flown between Zurich Central Laboratory, the premises of the Federal Institute of Technology in Hönggerberg and Hirslanden Clinic in Zurich. Universities also presented their own projects at this event.

The “Drone Innovators Network” meeting attracted more than 100 guests from the political arena and the areas of industry and research, as well as transport authorities. “It’s all about access to airspace,” said Timothy Reuter, Head of Drones at the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “Drones are playing an increasingly important role in saving lives, promoting food security and enabling economic growth. But the kind of regulations needed to scale up this technology is not there yet. We created the Drone Innovators Network to bring together a community of government pioneers to inspire and show what is possible.”

In order to draw attention to Switzerland’s leading position as a centre of innovation and technology, Presence Switzerland launched a campaign called “Switzerland – Home of the Drone”. The campaign was launched in the middle of May in Paris, and will subsequently proceed to Las Vegas, Tokyo and Dubai. It offers research institutions and the industry an opportunity to present their work at the international level.

Role of the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich

The Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, is one of the world’s leading science and technology universities. It was established in 1855. Today, 530 professors educate around 20,000 students (including 4,100 postgraduates) from more than 120 countries. 21 Nobel Prize winners studied, taught or researched at the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich. Since 1996, 380 spin-offs have originated here.

Its “Robotics, Systems & Control” Masters course enables participants to develop innovative and intelligent systems. Its syllabus includes drones. Thanks to the development of groundbreaking technologies and a variety of successful spin-offs, the Autonomous Systems Lab (under the leadership of Professor Roland Siegwart) and the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control Technology (headed by Professor Raffaello D’Andrea) have made a significant contribution towards the booming drones industry.

Address for enquiries

Communication DETEC, +41 58 462 55 11


General Secretariat of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications; General Secretariat DETEC

Federal Office of Civil Aviation

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