The U.S. Army is testing a high-tech airdrop system that uses a sophisticated video navigation system to locate its target. The system could prove invaluable for airdrops in difficult terrain and urban environments, researchers say.

The military has been working for years to boost the accuracy of its airdrops when resupplying troops. As part of this effort, the Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS), which uses GPS, an onboard computer and a steerable parachute, was developed in 2006. The technology was deployed in the field three years – it accounted for about 1 percent of the total airdrops conducted by the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan.

Now, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) is working on an even more accurate airdrop alternative to GPS as part of an ambitious multi-service project.

“In some terrains, such as steep canyons, or urban settings with tall buildings, you can lose GPS – these are gliding systems, so they can’t fly up in altitude.” Richard Benney, Director of the Aerial Delivery Directorate at NSRDEC, told “We’re researching and testing what we call a video navigation system – currently it’s simply a camera that’s looking down and out towards the ground in the direction of flight.”