Civil Operation – Private Industry
For civil operation, applicants may obtain a Special Airworthiness Certificate, Experimental Category by demonstrating that their unmanned aircraft system can operate safely within an assigned flight test area and cause no harm to the public. Applicants must be able to describe how their system is designed, constructed and manufactured; including engineering processes, software development and control, configuration management, and quality assurance procedures used, along with how and where they intend to fly. If the FAA determines the project does not present an unreasonable safety risk, the local FAA Manufacturing Inspection District Office will issue a Special Airworthiness Certificate in the Experimental Category with operating limitations applicable to the particular UAS.
Public Operation – U.S. Government Organizations
For public operation, the FAA issues a Certificate of Authorization or Waiver (COA) that permits public agencies and organizations to operate a particular UA, for a particular purpose, in a particular area. The FAA works with these organizations to develop conditions and limitations for UA operations to ensure they do not jeopardize the safety of other aviation operations. The objective is to issue a COA with terms that ensure an equivalent level of safety as manned aircraft. Usually, this entails making sure that the UA does not operate in a populated area and that the aircraft is observed, either by someone in a manned aircraft or someone on the ground.
- Air Traffic Airspace (ATA), Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Group
- Airworthiness Certification
- Airworthiness Certification Process
- Certificate of Authorization or Waiver (COA), ATA UAS description of the COA process.
- COA Online System, used by applicants to request a COA. Applicants must obtain an account to access the system.
- Special Airworthiness Certificate, Experimental Category or COA, information to help you determine which applies to your operation.
Certification of Authorization (COA) Sponsors
- November 22 release of 28 UAS COA Files (ZIP, 164.3 MB)
- November 13 release of 48 UAS COA Files (ZIP, 231.6 MB)
- August 29 release of 17 UAS COA Files (ZIP, 133.1 MB)
- June 20 release of 9 UAS COA Files (ZIP, 54.5 MB)
- April 19 release of 10 UAS COA Files (ZIP, 38.9 MB)
- February 12 release of 24 UAS COA Files (ZIP, 181.4 MB)
- December 4 release of 19 UAS COA Files (ZIP, 325.6 MB)
- November 7 release of 107 UAS COA Files (ZIP, 673.1 MB)
- September 21 release of 122 UAS COA Files (ZIP, 130.5 MB)
- August 15 release of 17 UAS COA Files (ZIP, 87.6 MB)
- July 12 Initial release of 125 UAS COA Files (ZIP, 687.4 MB)
The following federal, state, or local agencies currently hold or have held a certificate of authorization to operate an unmanned aircraft system between November 2006 and June 30, 2011. April 26, 2012 COA Sponsor List (PDF)