Google is building a fleet of drone aircraft that can bypass earthbound traffic so packages can be delivered to people more quickly in the United States.

"Project Wing," announced on Thursday, escalates Google's technological arms race with rival Amazon, which is also experimenting with self-flying vehicles to carry items bought by customers of its online store.

These planes have much more in common with the Google self-driving car than remote-controlled airplanes people fly in parks.

Google statement

The company expects it to take several more years before its fleet is fully operational, but has already carried out test flights, the AP news agency reported.

"These planes have much more in common with the Google self-driving car than the remote-controlled airplanes people fly in parks on weekends," Google said on its website, in reference to its project to create autonomous cars.

"Self-flying vehicles could open up entirely new approaches to moving goods, including options that are cheaper, faster, less wasteful and more environmentally sensitive than what's possible today."

Such projects are subject to US law. Amazon last month applied to federal authorities to expand its own drone tests.

The Federal Aviation Administration currently allows hobbyists and model aircraft makers to fly drones, while commercial use is mostly banned.

Project Wing is the latest venture to emerge from Google's X lab, which has also been working on self-driving cars.

The lab's other projects include internet-connected eyewear called Google Glass, internet-beaming balloons called Project Loon and a contact lens that monitors glucose levels in diabetics.

The Glass device has faced criticism from privacy advocates about its ability to secretly record video and take pictures.

Google, whose motto was once "don't be evil" has in the past been found monitoring information sent via private wifi networks while collecting data for its maps project.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies