Google parent company Alphabet has won federal approval to team up with Mexican food chain Chipotle to test drone burrito deliveries to Virginia Tech students.

It is one of the first commercial programmes of its kind to be approved by the US Federal Aviation Authority.

The drones, which will be able to both fly and hover in place, will make food deliveries coordinated by a Chipotle truck on campus.

"It's the first time that we're actually out there delivering stuff to people who want that stuff," Alphabet's Project Wing head Dave Vos explained to Bloomberg.

Project Wing drones will be guided predominantly by software, but human pilots will be on hand to take over control if necessary. The aircraft will be prohibited from flying directly over human beings.

Project Wing picked food deliveries because they present certain challenges. Administrators want to see if a drone can deliver the burritos using a winch system, and if the food can remain hot throughout a flight with special packaging. Safety will also be a concern.

"It sounds simple, but it's not," said Virginia Tech president Timothy Sands. "There are a lot of things to work out from a safety point of view — and a policy point of view."

The deliveries will be available to select students as well as employees at the Blacksburg, Virginia, campus. Alphabet initially tested Project Wing in Australia, and Amazon recently launched a pilot program for its Prime Air drone delivery service in the UK.

Requirements for drone delivery testing in the US, which has been tightly restricted by the FAA, are beginning to ease. In June, the agency dropped the requirement that drone operators must have a pilot's license.

The FAA plans to benefit from the program by using the data Project Wing generates to improve its commercial drone guidelines.