Are you listening to the Drill Channel, or do we have (another) situation here?
August 19, 2011 1:28 PM   Subscribe

When the police drill through to insert a surveillance camera, how do they do it stealthily?

I was reading this story where such a device was used and of course thought of the million of times I've seen it in movies and film: drill a hole, stick the probe up stealthily, take a look around.

Reality however makes me think of some combination of wood, plasterboard or pad and carpet that would have to be gotten through and the attendant gnawing through of each. In my own experience none of these are particularly stealthy to work through and even a hand drill (ugh) is going to provide some crunching. Perhaps they just roll with it, but it seems like that would imperil the camera and obviate much benefit of a low-profile camera.
posted by Ogre Lawless to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I imagine they do it when nobody's home.
posted by Jon_Evil at 1:44 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Reading the story, they don't necessarily imply that this was done stealthily as they did it after communication had broken down. There's not really a good way to drill through things without making noise or upsetting things a bit, though cameras can now fit into pretty small holes. Most of the time when surveillance is set up they do it when folks aren't around. There was a good NPR story a couple weeks ago about the FBI teams that do just this kind of work and how they get things done.
posted by pappy at 1:48 PM on August 19, 2011

Response by poster: Reading the story, they don't necessarily imply that this was done stealthily as they did it after communication had broken down.

That's probably the ticket: I'd envisioned some kind of Mission Impossible scenario. Seems like it'd be a bit chancy given that it would seem to give your projectile throwing suspect a pretty good idea about where you might be on the other side of the wall/floor/ceiling (though most of my visions of shooting through them comes from similar Hollywood fantasies).
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:07 PM on August 19, 2011

I think the best book I've read about this kind of thing (including this specific thing, and the particular problem of the dirt/debris a drill may push through into the room) was Spycraft, which spent a lot of time in particular on Cold War tech that was not necessarily small or wireless or quiet.

But yeah, for the most part the trick was doing it when nobody's home and without arousing the suspicion of anyone who might be paying attention.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:18 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

An old fashioned brace and bit can be nearly silent, if the bit is of the proper type, is sharp and if the person using the tools knows what they're doing. Brace bits come in a lot of types, from very precise wood boring Forstner bits to "standard" twist bits like you might use in any electric drill, but with shanks shaped for the brace jaws. The careful and experienced brace workman will choose bits appropriate for the material being drilled, and use good practices like drilling pilot holes when conditions warrant. Done properly, a brace drilled hole can be much better than a power drilled hole, because the brace readily transmits information about the state of the bit and its progress in drilling that is entirely masked by power drills.
posted by paulsc at 3:11 PM on August 19, 2011

Seconding the brace and bit. It's amazing just how much feedback you can get through the tool. With a nice, sharp bit, you could easily get almost all the way through the wall nearly silently. For the last few rotations, swap out the brace for a hand-held bit holder. With a nice sharp bit, you can still work fairly easily and silently.

In your other hand, you could use a small vacuum to capture any small debris before it fell out the other side to leave a telltale. I'd imagine you could devise a sort of one-time, short-duration vacuum using a sealed tube under vacuum, like they draw blood with. Wouldn't draw for long, but with practice, it'd get the job done, and almost completely silently.
posted by xedrik at 3:25 PM on August 19, 2011

From Wikipedia: During the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980, the hostage takers could hear the SAS drilling in the walls to plant bugs. They then started a public works drilling project in the street to provided cover noise, and when that made the hostage takers suspicious, they called it off and had Heathrow bring lower the flight paths of the planes approaching the airport.
posted by indyz at 4:15 PM on August 19, 2011

This Australian documentary/film (link includes preview) which includes the birth of ASIO (Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation) has an amusing sequence where the ASIO dudes drill through a ceiling, totally botch it up, and have to break in to fix it, and in the process alert the Russian guys who they were trying to covertly record.
posted by titanium_geek at 4:18 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

IIRC, the book Spycatcher also described many such instances. Everything was done at some pretext or another, but usually repairs of some sort.
posted by vidur at 7:25 PM on August 19, 2011

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