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Meet the drone-carrying Land Rover Discovery ‘Project Hero’ for the Red Cross

In between designing the new Velar and updating the Range Rover for 2017, Jaguar Land Rover has been busy making a drone-toting bespoke vehicle for the Austrian Red Cross.

Forget posing at the school gates. The Land Rover Discovery ‘Project Hero’ is a bespoke version of the off-roader that will be tasked with helping save lives and cutting disaster response times if it can prove successful in testing.

The Land Rover Discovery Project Hero has just been unveiled at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show ─ here is what exactly the orange-topped advanced communications vehicle can do and what makes it special.

1) Who is behind Project Hero?

Creating the bespoke machine was the job of Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations division and is another fruit of the partnership between it and the fifth largest humanitarian network, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Project Hero marks the first of 120 vehicles supplied to the IFRC that comes with a roof-mounted drone. Jaguar Land Rover’s partnership with the Red Cross has been going since 1954.

2) What makes it so special?

The unmanned drone can take off and land without the Land Rover Discovery Project Hero vehicle stopping ─ something Jaguar Land Rover claims is a world-first. So long as the speed is below the maximum 33.5mph top speed of the drone, which has a 5,200mAh capacity battery for a 20-minute battery life.

A combination of a clever self-centring system and magnetic retention technology make this possible, although the specifics are currently unclear. What we do know is that the drone has its own space in the roof for storage, take-off and landing.

3) How is the drone controlled?

The operator can be up to 1km away when using a bespoke tablet app to control the drone, which allows the occupants of the Land Rover Discovery to view their surrounding area without getting into harm’s way. Footage from the drone is relayed live through the infotainment display, keeping the Red Cross team in the warm and safe for as long as possible.

4) Could a drone really be that useful in emergencies?

Let’s face it, your eyes are no match for that of a drone hovering high in the sky like a bird, which is why the IFRC believes Project Hero could improve the response time of the Red Cross in emergency situations.

Landslides, earthquakes, floods, avalanches, groups of ramblers who bite off more than they can chew ─ these are all situations where a drone could help locate and rescue survivors and keep emergency responders away from danger until absolutely sure of what they are dealing with.

5) Does Project Hero have any other tricks?

Besides a powerful 3.0-litre TD6 engine and all-wheel drive, the Land Rover Discover Project Hero vehicle has a sliding floor in the back that can be used as a workspace or protect cargo lying beneath it.

It also gets LED lighting to enhance its abilities at night, multi-frequency radio equipment to aid communication and power points designed to work in different regions.

6) Where will Project Hero be used?

The plan is to make use of the Land Rover Discovery Project Hero vehicle for 12 months from June, 2017, in the area of Erzberg, Austria. It is here, at the home of the Austrian Red Cross training centre, where simulations and test-runs for complex natural disaster scenarios will take place.

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