Testflight: upload release or development version for testing?

I have an app where I want to use Testflight for the first time.

Should I build and upload a development or a release (--release) build to Testflight?

You not only should, but have to upload a release build:

Using TestFlight to beta test iOS apps involves submitting an app to iTunes Connect that is signed with your App Store distribution provisioning profile. […] This is the preferred method of beta testing because it does not require you to re-build or re-sign the submission for App Store publication.

Source: https://developer.apple.com/library/content/technotes/tn2407/_index.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/DTS40014991-CH1-FOLLOW_WORKFLOWS_DOCUMENTED_BY_APPLE_TO_RUN_ON_DEVICE__BETA_TEST__OR_SUBMIT_YOUR_APP-BETA_TESTING

If you want to test a development build, you should look into HockeyApp or similar beta distribution methods.

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