Drones are poised to make a very positive impact on search and rescue efforts going forward, with the award-winning Gimball, the hiker-trailing Sentry and Lockheed Martin's Indago just a few examples of aircraft built for this purpose. Looking to make a contribution of its own, Land Rover has teamed up with the British Red Cross for a purpose-built search and rescue drone that launches from the roof of a bespoke version of the new Discovery.
The special version of the Discovery has been dubbed Project Hero and was built specifically for use by the Austrian Red Cross. On show at Geneva this week, the vehicle is based on the 3.0-liter TD6 engine-powered version of the Land Rover Discovery and has a few extra modifications that might come in handy. These include a sliding floor in the trunk that can be used as a work surface or to protect cargo underneath, extra power points, special LEDs to help with night vision, and multiple-frequency radio equipment.
The included drone has a range of 1 km (0.62 mi), is controlled using a tablet app from within the car, and streams live footage from above back to the emergency response team. It launches from the roof and returns via what Land Rover calls self-centering and magnetic retention technology. The company doesn't go into detail about how that works, but claims that it will allow the drone to land autonomously on top of the vehicle even when it is in motion.
It is worth mentioning that some similar concepts have been bandied about over the last year, but we've yet to see any working demonstrations. The Mercedes-Benz Vision Van concept unveiled in September would deploy delivery drones from its rooftop to carry packages over the last leg of their journey, while UPS has been testing a similar approach using its delivery trucks.
For its part, Land Rover does seem pretty serious about putting its Project Hero vehicles into action. They will be stationed at the Austrian Red Cross training centers in Erzeberg and Vienna for 12-month periods beginning in June this year. From there, Red Cross teams will use them in simulations to help devise new disaster relief tactics. And in the event of natural disasters like heavy snow or floods, the vehicles themselves will also be used to provide emergency support.
You can hear from some of the people involved in the project below.
Source: Land Rover