A ROMSEY-based technology consultancy is leading the way with pioneering research to save lives using drones.

Roke has successfully demonstrated how its autoland technology could help the Austrian Red Cross by operating from the roof of the new Land Rover Discovery.

In joint trials with Jaguar Land Rover at the Erzberg Mine in Austria last month, Roke highlighted how drones could be used to protect and save lives in remote and dangerous environments - providing live aerial reconnaissance images, delivering urgent medical supplies or supporting humanitarian deployments.

The ability to send a drone ahead of a convoy in order to send back images and data has safety advantages for aid workers. Rather than operator control, Roke’s technology allows fully automatic operation and landing. It is completely independent of communications infrastructure, such as broadcast radio, cellular and GPS, meaning that it can operate in the most remote places in the world and in areas that have suffered natural or man-made disasters.

To control the drone, the operator uses a simple touchscreen interface to input tasks for the drone to perform – its flight and critically its take-off and landing are all handled by the drone’s autonomous systems.

Dean Thomas, Roke’s expert on Autonomous Systems, commented: “From mountain rescue missions to identifying poachers in the wilds of Africa, the combination of a drone able to operate, take-off and land autonomously in the most remote of areas with an all-terrain vehicle, provides off-grid and off-road capability which could save lives.”