U-space roles and responsibilities

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UAS operators

According to the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947, UAS operators means any legal or natural person operating or intending to operate one or more UAS;

With the implementation of the U-space regulatory package, the UAS operator remains in charge of most aspects of their operations. Requirements set in previous regulations are unchanged. For example, U-space airspaces do not impact the operators requirements of registering themselves , ensuring the appropriate level of competency of their remote pilots, and getting the appropriate authorisations to operate, both in terms of access to airspace and of operational authorizations. If a U-Space airspace includes a federal game or nature reserve, the UAS operator would need to obtain an authorisation from the environmental agency in charge of that specific geographical zone to operate in this area. In addition, if they intend to operate in the specific category, they would need an authorisation from FOCA. U-space service providers are not required to check that an UAS operator is in possession of such operational authorisations.

In addition to the obligations for UAS operator arising from the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947, the U-space regulatory package[1] introduces new rules for UAS operators. One of these new obligations are to use the digital services provided by U-space service providers in airspace designated as U-space[2]. UAS operators are free to use the U-space service provider of their choice.

The U-space services to be used by UAS operators are the following:

In order to start the operation in U-space, UAS operator must request a UAS flight authorisation from their USSP trough the UAS flight authorisation service[3]. This service ensures that an intended operation is free of conflict in space and time. When the operator is ready to start operation of his UAS, he must request activation of his UAS flight authorization from his USSP. As soon as the flight is activated, the other services are also activated, in particular the network identification service. It is obvious that the operator must verify before his flight that he does not fly in any geographical area without the necessary authorization.

Several U-space services require the UAS to be connected. It is up to the UAS operator to make sure they can meet the connectivity requirements, including latency and availability requirements, using the mechanism(s) of their choice.

Some UAS operators are excluded from the scope of Regulation (EU) 2021/664 and therefore should not use U-space services in U-space airspace. UAS operators performing the following type of operations are covered[4]:

  • In the framework of model aircraft clubs and associations that have received an authorisation[5].
  • For the operation of drones with a “maximum take of mass” of less than 250g. This includes privately built drones and drones belonging to the C0 class.
  • For UAS operation using instrument flight rules (IFR). It is underlined that very few UAS fall into this category. This is sometimes applicable to military UAS or to UAS carrying passenger as flying taxi[6].

U-space service providers

A U-space service provider is a legal person certified to provide U-space services in a U-space airspace[7].

The USSPs active in a U-space airspace provides at least the four U-space mandatory services: Network identification, Geo-awareness, UAS flight authorisation, and Traffic information. They may choose to operate in all or part of the U-space airspaces for which they meet the services performance requirements. In all but one case, a USSP's responsibility is limited to providing complete and timely data to their operators who remain fully in charge of their operations. The exception is the responsibility of USSPs to reject UAS flight authorisation requests in case of conflicting requests, higher priority requests or when dynamic airspace reconfiguration is declared pre-activation of a flight.

USSPs are expected to share Network identification, UAS flight authorisation and when required conformance monitoring data among themselves and with other authorised users. They are, however, not required to check the accuracy of the data provided by CIS providers or other USSPs. They must nonetheless ensure that they do not alter the data they receive in any way that could have a negative impact on an operation.

Manned aviation (hereafter "crewed aviation[8]")

Crewed aviation is also affected by the U-space regulatory package. Indeed, crewed aviation wishing to fly in a U-space airspace and not provided with an air traffic control service by the ANSP, shall continuously make themselves electronically conspicuous to the USSP. This new aspect has been captured in the Regulation (EU) 2021/666 amending Regulation (EU) No 923/2012. This means that UAS operators will always have access to the necessary air traffic information in both controlled and uncontrolled U-space airspace.

The goal is for crewed aviation to be able to continue to fly safely in Swiss airspace while allowing UAS operators to perform complex UAS operations while benefiting from information crucial to the proper and safe execution of the operation.

In addition to this, in controlled U-space airspace crewed aviation will be able to operate safely as the airspace they intend to fly in will be clear of UAS operations as ATC will have to perform a dynamic airspace reconfiguration of this specific volume of U-space airspace.

Skyguide

Skyguide as the Swiss Air Navigation Services Provider has a number of rights and obligations. Primarily, it has received a mandate from the Federal Council to provide Air Traffic Management (ATM)/Air Navigation Services (ANS) in Switzerland and in some neighbouring territories. In addition to its tasks related to crewed aviation, Skyguide must now provide a number of services which will be of direct use to UAS operator. It will also ensure the separation of UAS from crewed aviation so that safety is guaranteed. These new obligations have been approved by the Federal Counci and are now part of Skyguide’s new mandate.

Federal office of civil aviation

Within the framework of the U-space regulatory package, a competent authority is that entity responsible for the tasks defined in (EU) No 2021/664, Art 17 and 18. The Swiss FOCA will be the competent authority to perform these tasks. This competence is directly derived from several articles in the Swiss Aviation Law (LFG, SR 748.0)[9].

These tasks cover several aspects, including certification and supervision of the USSP having their principal place of business in Switzerland. In particular, the FOCA will have to define a procedure for future USSPs to apply for certification, but it will also have to put in place a continuous risk-based oversight programme. The direct legal basis for FOCA conducting any certification and oversight activities in the field of U-Space service provision is stipulated in Swiss Aviation Law.

One of the main tasks of the FOCA is also to define a procedure for the designation of U-space airspace containing a methodology for risk analysis and also a coordination mechanism between the stakeholders who will be affected by the U-space in question.

The Swiss FOCA must also establish and maintain a registration system for USSPs.

As a public authority, the FOCA also has the ability to take action to ensure that UAS operations are conducted in the most efficient and safe manner possible. In addition, the FOCA also has the possibility to take enforcement actions against USSPs to ensure that they fulfil their obligations.

In addition to these tasks arising directly from its role as a competent authority, the Swiss FOCA will provide as part of the common information services the data about each U-space airspaces, such as the vertical and horizontal limits. the Swiss FOCA will also provide the infomration about the UAS goegraphical zone and the static and dynamic airsapce restrictions[10].

Other federal and local authorities

Other authorities and local authorities are involved in the U-space airspace designation process. Indeed, according to Art. 18 (f) of Regulation (EU) 2021/664, the competent authority should set up a coordination mechanism including the different actors involved in the U-space airspace. These actors may include UAS operators, but also other federal offices or local authorities such as municipalities, cantons or the cantonal police. The entities involved depend on the location of the U-space.

General public

The general public has a very limited role in the U-space regulatory package. The Regulation (EU) 2021/664 refers to the general public only very briefly by giving them a right derived directly from the network identification service. Indeed, according to the Art. 8(4) (b) of the Regulation (EU) 2021/664, the general public has access to information about the UAS operation that is deemed public (the UAS operator's identification number, speed, height etc.). The purpose of this right is to increase the transparency of UAS operation by giving some information to the general public.

Stakeholders outside the U-space scope

Military and special operation

Military and special operations within the meaning of Art. 4 of Regulation 923/2012 shall not apply the rules of the U-space regulatory package. These are excluded from the scope of application in Switzerland. Depending on the type of crewed or uncrewed special operation, operators can decide whether or not to apply certain rules.

Special operation - crewed aviation

Special operations shall, except when the type of operation does not allow it (e.g. police operation wishing to remain confidential) be cooperative in U-space. They shall therefore continuously make themselves electronically conspicuous to the USSP as indicated in the previous chapter on crewed aviation.


A solution is currently being discussed in Switzerland with regard to dynamic airspace reconfiguration in U-space designated in controlled airspace. The proposed solution is that for special operations such as HEMS or S&R, skyguide would not be obliged to perform dynamic airspace reconfiguration. This is because, given the state of the art and the nature of special operations, they are unpredictable and impossible to plan. It would therefore be impossible for ATC unit to perform a dynamic airspace reconfiguration in time.

Seperation would still be ensured as UAS operators would receive the position of these aircrafts via the traffic information service provided by the USSP.

Special operation - uncrewed aviation

Special operations with uncrewd aircraft are also excluded from the scope of the U-space regulation. Nevertheless, the FOCA strongly recommends that such operators use U-space services where possible. Indeed, special operations have priority over other UAS operations when it comes to requesting a UAS flight authorization.

  1. Especially Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/664.
  2. Art. 6(1) (b) of the regulation (EU) 2021/664.
  3. Art. 6(4) of the regulation (EU) 2021/664.
  4. Art. 1(3) of Regulation (EU) 2021/664.
  5. Art. 16 of Regulation (EU) 2019/947.
  6. Regulation No 923/2012, SERA.5015.
  7. Art. 7(1) of Regulation (EU) 2021/664.
  8. FOCA has decided to use the generic term crewed aviation for gender equality reasons.
  9. In particular Art. 3 regarding the monitoring and auditing of USSPs, and Art. 8a regarding the designation of U-sapce airspace.
  10. Art. 5(1) of Regulation (EU) 2021/664.