Google has been quietly testing its drone delivery program in US airspace and is planning further tests in rural California after striking a deal with Nasa, the Guardian has learned.

Documents seen by the Guardian also reveal technical details of Google’s drone, which is capable of speeds of up to 100 mph and weighs less than 25kg (55lb). The papers also reveal Google’s safety plans should a drone lose contact with its operator.

The US currently has a blanket ban on the commercial operation of unmanned aircraft. When Google revealed its experimental delivery drones, code-named Project Wing, a year ago, a promotional video showed a farmer in rural Australia receiving a packet of dog treats by air.

Companies wanting to take to America’s spacious skies need special permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), involving onerous requirements such as having a licensed pilot control the drone.

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