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The private investigator who spies using drones

Hi-tech toys

Wright was asked to figure out whether this was happening. To do so meant visiting every major soda wholesaler from San Luis Obispo to San Diego – about 300 miles (480km) of California coast – and checking whether any were selling soda from the wrong salesperson. When there was illegal soda on sale, she would use a drone to follow the soda delivery trucks back to their depots. In one case, the warehouse the truck led her back to was out in the desert and would have been impossible to approach by car or foot without being noticed. But the drone was able to spy on the trucks covertly. “We could see between the warehouse door and the truck loading.”

Wright gets her drones from high-end toy stores, for about $200 each. They’re an expensive investment: not only do you have to buy the device, you also have to pay one or two people to pilot and spot the thing. And if you lose one during a mission, you’re out a good chunk of your budget. But it can be worth it, because for the cases in which they’re useful, they can be very useful indeed.