Civil drones, a future technology?

Challenges and prospects - an expert study


The use of drones in many areas now seems to be one of the significant technological innovations of the past decade, opening up horizons as yet uncharted. Initially used by the army for surveillance or combat missions, drones are now moving into the civilian world: mapping, surveillance of industrial sites or civil engineering works, leisure, events, agriculture and humanitarian aid are likewise areas in which drones might be used. Current research projects, focussing particularly on miniaturisation and empowerment of drones, are developing them into a key technology for the future, with implications for a number of economic sectors, but also for society as a whole.

The project will present an inter- and trans-disciplinary view of civil drones, taking into account the opportunities, obstacles and risks of both ongoing and upcoming developments within the sector. The project will adopt a forward-looking approach, examining innovations and developments in the field of drones in the period up to 2020-2025. It will identify the technological innovations which will affect the development of the drones sector, as well as the applications and areas for their potential use, with the aim of demonstrating the impact of drones on society. Finally, the project will enable proposals to be formulated for the sustainable and responsible integration of drones in the public domain.


Duration of the project

Begins in May 2016, completion expected in November 2017

Project mandataries

Project leader: 

Dr Michel Guillaume, Head of the Centre for Aviation (ZAV), Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW)

Project team:

  • Dr Peter Lenhart, Centre for Aviation, ZHAW
  • PD Dr Markus Christen, Head of Network Ethics of Monitoring and Surveillance (NEMOS), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ)
  • Dr Kurt Moll, lawyer, Bern

Supervisory group

  • Chair: Bruno Baeriswyl, TA-SWISS Leitungsausschuss, Datenschutzbeauftragter des Kantons Zürich,
  • Felix Altorfer, Eidgenössisches Nuklearsicherheitsinspektorat ENSI (Vertreter der Kommission für Technologie und Innovation KTI)
  • Bruno Arnold, Agridea (Schweizerische Vereinigung für die Entwicklung der Landwirtschaft und des ländlichen Raums)
  • Siddhartha Arora, Expert, Autor der Masterthese “Swiss Commercial Drone Industry: A possibility with potential?”
  • Reto Büttner, Schweizer Verband Ziviler Drohnen (SVZD)
  • Laurent Déletraz, Skyguide
  • Markus Farner, Bundesamt für Zivilluftfahrt (BAZL)
  • Christoph Giger, Stadtpolizei Zürich
  • Olivier Glassey, TA-SWISS Leitungsausschuss, Faculté des sciences sociales et politiques (SSP), Université de Lausanne
  • Rolf Hügli, Schweizerische Akademie der Technischen Wissenschaften SATW
  • Quentin Ladetto, armasuisse
  • Arthur Leibundgut, Bundesamt für Kommunikation (BAKOM)
  • Andrea Marrazo, Schweizerische Post
  • Werner Müller, Birdlife, Schweizer Vogelschutz Verband
  • Alice Reichmuth-Pfammatter, Datenschutzspezialistin

Project management TA-SWISS

Dr Catherine Pugin, TA-SWISS (E-Mail)

In the media

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