UAV Drone IndustryTop 3 Reasons Why American Drone Companies Are Setting Up Their Offices in Switzerland

October 26, 2021by helo-10
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The Swiss drone industry market is the largest globally as measured by market size per capita, according to a report from Drone Industry Insight, a leading drone market research company based in Germany. A vibrant ecosystem of more than 80 companies has been established in the “Swiss drone valley”, and optimism regarding the potential of this sector prevails amongst business executives. It is, therefore, no surprise that many international companies, especially from the USA, have selected Switzerland as their EMEA base of operations. Here are the top 3 reasons behind their choice.

Switzerland Has One of the Best Aviation Regulators Worldwide 

When it comes to aviation and drone operations, the relationship with the national aviation regulator is paramount. Dealing with bureaucracy, inspectors, and paperwork is challenging in a traditional sector. Still, it becomes lethal in a rapidly evolving disruptive industry such as drones. Regulator incompetence, lack of training and cultural mismatch have been indicated repeatedly as the significant factors in delays in adopting new technologies worldwide. The Swiss know this and have taken all steps necessary to provide the best possible environment for companies in their territory. These efforts were recognized back in 2018 by the World Economic Forum that selected Zürich and Switzerland as launch partners of their Drone Innovators Network. “Switzerland plays a leading role in drone technology today,” said the former Swiss Transport Minister Doris Leuthard, speaking at this event.

In the years that followed, the Swiss Government has championed the establishment of a world-class “drone team” within the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation, competent for both rulemaking and safety approvals of drone operations. 

“Matternet selected Switzerland as a centerpiece in its future strategy in 2014 primarily because the civil aviation authority (FOCA) showed prescience and ambition to break new ground and to set in place the global framework for safe commercial exploitation of lower air space using drone technology.” Oliver Evans – Matternet

Two key influencers behind this success story, Francine Zimmermann and Marcel Kägi, have moved to lead the Aviation Strategy and Policy Division of Swiss FOCA and have since established an innovation-friendly culture, open to new ventures, ready to listen and guide new entrants and competent to evaluate even the most challenging of operations. In addition, the Swiss FOCA is engaged in all significant regulatory efforts globally, and their ability to influence and guide those efforts is unrivalled. Zimmermann explained all the above and much more in this interview.

There are very few places in the world where regulators have embraced innovation in such radical ways, and companies are recognizing the value of this for their operations.

“ANRA is an international company with operations on nearly every continent, so we have dealt with many regulators in many markets. We find the Swiss regulatory environment as one of the most forward-thinking and innovative for advancing U-Space services. We saw this first-hand during our partnership with Swiss FOCA during our collaboration starting back in 2019 to develop and eventually deploy in 2021 our nation-wide Network Remote ID platform in Switzerland,” Amit Ganjoo – Founder and CEO of ANRA Technologies. 

Switzerland Has a Highly Competitive Talent Pool

Travel to Switzerland for a holiday and you’ll quickly realize that you landed in one of the most expensive countries in the world. It, therefore, seems highly counterintuitive to found a start-up or open a European office there. However, when digging below the cliche and running financial evaluations, many entrepreneurs discover a surprising truth. Highly talented engineers, software developers and aviation consultants are expensive everywhere. When evaluating locations where such talents are available, Switzerland comes out as a winner.

“Switzerland has a phenomenal track record and brand recognition for quality, the robustness of safety processes, and innovation in precision engineering. Universities such as ETH, EPFL and the University of Zurich rank amongst foremost institutions worldwide in fields like robotics. All these factors enabled us to attract, retain and develop a team to establish pioneering operations and to forge exciting local partnerships, to lead to new opportunities in other countries thanks to the solid path set in Switzerland,” Oliver Evans – Matternet

Another significant advantage that makes Switzerland unique in the European landscape is its multilingualism. In very few places in Europe, it is possible to hire talent offering the possibility to retain their mother tongue (e.g., French, German, Italian, etc.) while working in an English-speaking environment. One example of such potential is the swiss aeropole in Payerne, conveniently located a few kilometres from both German-speaking and French-speaking areas of Switzerland with world-class office spaces and access to a full-fledged airport.

Talents love Switzerland and are happy to relocate there more than everywhere else in the world.

Switzerland Has a Stable and Attractive Economic Landscape 

Switzerland has a long history of solid political and economic landscape. Its currency, the Swiss Franc, is as good as gold in times of crisis. Governments both at the Federal and at Cantonal levels value stability and quality of services above everything else. The country offers several initiatives to attract companies to their territory and to guide them through all necessary steps, from the initial discovery call to selecting the best location to the agreement on financial terms and conditions. Switzerland Global Enterprise, for example, works on behalf of the Swiss Confederation and Cantons to promote investment and entrepreneurship in Switzerland and help foreign companies tap into the new potential for their international business.

Switzerland is one of Europe’s beacons for drones and software; it was for us a logical choice to open an office in geneva area, we found a convenient and startup-friendly location at Octagon just in front of the Geneva airport. We could see clear synergies with other drone companies, academia, customers and investors. We are already launching our first flights this year and have hired a first student from EPFL. As an American company, we also receive fantastic support from Switzerland GGBA, which allows us to expand our business faster. Oliver Le Lann – EVA

Those support services can prove invaluable for a company looking to expand in Europe, saving thousands of dollars on exploratory efforts and streamlining the process from start to finish.

Switzerland is a thriving location for drone companies, and more and more enterprises worldwide are discovering the benefits of setting up offices in this jewel country in the heart of Europe. If you are thinking about your next step toward expanding in Europe, you should undoubtedly place Switzerland on top of your list.



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