The Evaluation and Special Projects Branch, AIR-240, directs the airworthiness certification process for civil operation of UAS and OPA. In no case may any UAS or OPA be operated in the National Airspace System as civil unless there is an appropriate and valid airworthiness certificate issued for that UAS or OPA. U.S. registration is a prerequisite for the issuance of a special airworthiness certificate to UAS and OPA. Currently, the FAA issues UAS and OPA two types of special airworthiness certificates: special flight permits and experimental certificates. Special flight permits are issued for production flight testing new production aircraft. Experimental certificates are issued only for the purposes of:
- Research and Development
- Crew Training
- Market Survey
FAA Order 8130.34 provides requirements for airworthiness certification of UAS and OPA. Applicants should ensure they qualify as a civil operator. Public operators of UAS and OPA follow Certificate of Authorization or Waiver (COA) procedures. Applicants should also ensure they have a current and qualified certificated pilot and a well-defined flight test area. Applicants who meet these requirements should contact the Evaluation and Special Projects Branch at 202-385-6346 to start the airworthiness certification process.