Drone on the run.

It’s four in the morning and Colin and I are sitting in the back of a Transit van in Greenwich. Real time, real world covert surveillance is bad enough, but when you spend half the time  ‘having to’ cooperate with other agencies, it’s unbearable. Also, it’s cold, we’ve run out of crisps and Colin’s flask has leaked over the coms equipment……so….

Transit vans have a reputation of being roomy, able to carry all the tools you need for any job. It’s unfortunate the sort of jobs we need them for never entered the designers mind. There is half a ton of electronic equipment, Colin, myself and three guests. M.I.5 and 6 have joined the party as well as a ride along from G.C.H.Q. 

It’s an M.I.5 operation really, we’re here to run the recording devices and collate all the data, the others are here because……actually I have no idea and I am not going to ask. Right now I wish they’d all just go way…..for a walk….go anywhere but here. Of course they can’t, climbing out the back of covert van one after another trying to look inconspicuous would have the opposite effect, so I am stuck with them…….there are times when i hate my life, and this is one of them.

So what exactly are Colin and I doing here? Well, usually if we are surveilling a property we’ve gained access and have it wired for sound and vision. This is easier than you’d think, and given enough time we’d replace the wall clocks, lamps, and the telephone. For those of you who still have a landline, we’ll either make it live from the exchange, in which case the receiver will act as a microphone, giving us ears in the room, or we’ll replace, with one that gives us sound and vision. Thanks to wifi and wireless bluetooth we can stream all the gathered intel anywhere on the planet. These days it’s that simple, the Spy Shop do a nice range of bedside lamps if you’re interested? 

As I said usually we have access, but there are times when the real world moves faster than you’d like. I am currently sat on boxes of equipment that should have been installed in the target property. The average person wouldn’t be expected to sit on a radio alarm clock, that would be uncomfortable..….you have no idea!

 The van is kited out for a two man comms team to relay intel from live up links to any asset in the field. Today, however is like a sketch from a badly written farce. The five of us are crammed in, with three “colleagues” who it would seem are now experts on field equipment, are not so quietly whispering their pears of wisdom to Colin. It’s supposed to be a covert mission, I swear if the other-side were within two feet of the van, they’d be pissing themselves.

“So….we’ve no visuals?”

I try to fix my new colleague with my best death stare. It fails miserably. 

“No…we didn’t have them 10 minutes ago then you asked the first time, and the answers still no…and before you ask why.…again……its because the target came home early.”

He nods and unfortunately continues.

“That’s faulty intel that is.”

“Which was provided by you.”  My withering glance also fails.

My chat with G.C.H.Q.s latest Mensa candidate is interrupted by Colins not so quite cheering. The air is filled with what sounds like half a dozen mildly pissed off mosquitoes. From the palm of his hand rises a matchbox sized drone, which hovers motionless in front of his face. He smiles lovingly at this marvel of miniaturisation, a smile that’s displayed in all its distorted majesty on the vans   monitor.

“Loose battery connection.” He informs us, “Right, time to get down, or is it up to business?”

The plan or adapted plan, is to use the drone to plant a miniature fisheye lens on any window that shows promise. Although distorted, the lens should be about to give us sight and sound. If we’re lucky and there’s not may distractions, e.g. fish tank pumps, fridges, ceiling fans, we should be able to hear further than we can see.

Colin opens a small panel in the roof of the van and releases the drone. I mean with all the noise we’ve been making, he might as well have thrown it out the back door, but we follow protocol. With all the skill of a teenager in an arcade, Colin guides the drone from window to window, whilst we all, again with the covert stuff, comment on which is best.

The lounge would seem the best option, there is noise from the T.V. but we have a nifty little algorithm that can sort that. Slowly he manoeuvres the drone into the furthest bottom corner of the window. We all hold our breath. This is the most delicate part. He has to get the camera to stick, which means he’s going to have to bump the window with some considerable force.

Now, what would you do if something bumped you window ? Probably look out right ? So Colin has to attach the camera, disengage the drone and move it out of sight, in one move. No pressure. On the monitor we silently watch the window loom into view. Suddenly a flash of ginger knocks the drone. The picture spins wildly before fading out.

“Can you get it back?”

Colins fingers flash over the keyboard.

“Give my a sec.”

The screen flares white before coming into focus. It reveals as single word, a word that has been the death knell of many an Op. Tiddles. 

“Errr….forgot that.”


So what have we learned ? Five can’t fit in the space of two. Intel is critical for   ops, and Colin is forgetful when it comes to cats.

“Right, I am going home…..not you Colin….Mr Tiddles has your Drone.”

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