This week, the
World Economic Forum
moves drones to the top of its agenda convening its Drone Innovators Network at ETH Zurich. Discussions are set to span the spectrum of drone implementation in society from aviation policy to urban delivery and from the benefits of drones to their potential risk.
Reflecting on a long research tradition, ETH President Lino Guzzella, who will open the conference with a welcome address, traces back ETH unmanned aerial vehicle research to the mid-1980s and an autonomous helicopter project in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Since then, ETH researchers have engaged in pioneering work accelerating drone research that influences fields as widely dispersed as aviation and agriculture.
Switzerland’s drone ecosystem
“Switzerland plays a leading role in drone technology today,” says Doris Leuthard who addresses leaders in the opening keynote of the Drone Innovators Network. Leuthard, a Swiss Federal Councillor and head of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, attributes the country’s drone leadership to, “Innovative companies and universities driving the success, along with pragmatic government regulation that takes the needs of research and development into account. This unique mix has created an environment that is equally attractive for start-ups, companies and research.”
“The Swiss possess a drive for innovation that allows them to compete in a global market,” says Raffaello D’Andrea, ETH Professor of Dynamic Systems and Control. Pioneers not only in drone technology, the Swiss are forerunners in advancing drone regulation. Cooperation with stakeholders in the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (BAZL), with companies like, SkyGuide, and other stakeholders in industry and academia Swiss innovators are able to engage directly with policymakers.
The drone ecosystem in Switzerland also enjoys favourable conditions in terms of protection and licensing of intellectual property. This combined with the existence of a highly skilled and motivated labour force, flexible labour laws, and a long tradition of Swiss-quality technologies prepares Switzerland to become a world leader for commercial drone technologies.