SAN FRANCISCO - Google on Thursday said it is testing using drones to deliver items bought online, putting its own spin on similar efforts by Internet retail titan Amazon.com.
Two years of research into what Google referred to as "Project Wing" was capped this month with test flights delivering candy, water, medicine, dog treats and other items to two farmers in Queensland, Australia.
"Self-flying vehicles could open up entirely new approaches to moving goods," California-based Google said in a blog post disclosing the project.
"Throughout history, major changes in how we move goods from place to place have led to new opportunities for economic growth and generally made consumers' lives easier."
Project Wing drones were described as having more in common with Google's self-driving car than remote-controlled aircraft used by hobbyists.
Delivery drones and autonomous vehicles are both being worked on in Google X lab devoted to innovative new technologies.
Google expected it to be several years before a delivery drone system is ready.
Last month, Amazon sought permission for drone test flights in the United States, saying it is moving forward on plans for deliveries using unmanned aircraft.
In a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration, Amazon said that because of restrictions on drones in US airspace, it has been conducting test flights indoors and in other countries.
Amazon said an exemption to FAA rules would be "in the public interest" and "is a necessary step towards realizing the consumer benefits of Amazon Prime Air," which company founder Jeff Bezos has described as a plan for drone delivery to consumers.
Bezos unveiled his idea for drone deliveries last December, and said the company would be ready to launch Amazon Prime Air as early as 2015 if FAA regulations allowed.
The letter said that over the past five months, "we have made advancements toward the development of highly-automated aerial vehicles for Prime Air," which travel at over 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour and can carry loads up to five pounds (2.2 kilos).
Amazon's plan is to allow for deliveries of some goods within 30 minutes of an order.
Amazon predicted in the letter that "one day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation."