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Watch Land Rover’s search and rescue SUV launch infrared-equipped drones

Why it matters to you

By launching a drone without even stopping -- or getting out of -- the vehicle, natural disaster teams can improve response times.

Land Rover is only a half-accurate description for Jaguar’s latest SUV designed for both land and air. Today at the Geneva Motor Show, the company unveiled Project Hero, a variation of the Land Rover Discovery that’s the first vehicle that not only has a built-in drone launching platform on the roof, but can also launch and land drones while in motion.

The SUV, designed by the Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations team, uses a magnetic retention system to keep the drone on top of the vehicle until it’s ready to launch — or to allow the drone to land while the vehicle is in motion. Land Rover says that the fully integrated landing system is also self-centering.

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So why does Land Rover want to launch a drone from the roof — besides that fact that’s it’s incredibly cool? Project Hero is part of the company’s longstanding support of the Red Cross, a relationship that started in 1954 and has since resulted in 120 vehicles designed specifically for the organization’s work around the globe. The latest drone-launching vehicle is designed for search and rescue to get a pair of eyes up in the air faster when every minute matters.

Live footage from the drone assists emergency response teams, allowing groups to quickly search the scene from a safe distance. The drone is controlled from a panel inside the car and uses both a live camera and thermal imaging. The company says the latest Discovery will help speed up the response time at landslides, earthquakes, floods, avalanches and other natural disasters.

The drone-launching SUV is a variation of the TD6 engine in the Land Rover Discovery. Along with the rooftop landing pad, the rear cargo space floor slides out to become extra work surface. LEDs to aid in night searches and multiple plug- and equipment-mounting options also aim to make the vehicle more rescue friendly.

Beginning this summer, Project Hero will be tested in Erzberg and Vienna, Austria, and used in training and simulations before being integrated into the Red Cross emergency response efforts for natural disasters.