Surveillance Drone

A small (usually basketball sized or smaller) robot whose only purpose in life is to record or transmit an A/V feed. Usually hovers, but other variations exist.

They sometimes overlap with Spy Bots but are more closely related to harmless Attack Drones, likewise, sometimes they are magical instead of technological in nature.

As Sinister Surveillance, many these bots are iconic ways to identify the setting as a dystopia of Big Brother Is Watching.

See also Patrolling Mook. Contrast with Animal Eye Spy. Might be deployed by the, well, Drone Deployer.


Anime & Manga
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!: Asakura's artifact, the Oculus Corvinus/Raven's Eyes. Six small, flying robots used for spying and information-gathering. Perfect for the School Newspaper Newshound.
    • A recent chapter comes up with a more complicated use for them, which involves using a ghost to transmit information from one camera to another, so other people can watch the action without being detected.
  • Lyrical Nanoha has the Wide Area Search spell, which has Raising Heart releasing inconspicuous floating energy orbs that remotely scan areas.
  • The Android Saga of Dragon Ball Z revealed that Red Ribbon Army scientist Dr Gero had insect-sized robots monitoring the heroes for years, studying their techniques so his Androids would know exactly how to beat them. Another, possibly separate, robot was collecting DNA samples so he could create Cell.
  • In Ergo Proxy, Vincent and Pino have escaped Romdeau and are now living in somewhat of a shanty-town, with about 15 people in its precinct. Vincent almost has a run-in with one, and after he and Pino settle in, more are sent out. Raul, the newly-appointed Director-General of the Citizen Security Bureau is to blame for this.

  • Marvel Universe: the Rigellian Recorders.
  • Astro City: In the story Father's Day, Jack-In-The-Box has one in the fight with the Brass Monkey. This is because he's the third Jack-In-The-Box, taking over for his predecessor whose wife is having a child. The camera lets Jack-2 monitor from his basement headquarters and give Jack-3 advice and tactical updates.
  • In The DCU, this is one of the functions of Mister Terrific's T-Spheres.


Live-Action TV
  • Stargate Universe: the Confession Cam.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Goa'uld have access to these.
    • The SGC's MALP probes qualify as a more primitive variation, as do the UAV drones.
  • Stargate Atlantis: the Wraith have them, as well.
  • Human journalists in Babylon 5 regularly use hovering cameras.
  • MST3K has its CamBot.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985) episode "To See The Invisible Man" had floating security drones used to watch for people breaking laws.
  • One of these turned up in the Doctor Who story Silence In The Library as a link to Cal.
    • A Classic Series Doctor Who example: The Fifth Doctor's second story, Four to Doomsday, also featured a similar device, known as the Monopticon, patrolling the corridors of Monarch's massive spaceship.
  •'s web series Alpha House has the Watt Brothers only come to meetings on a video receiver and camera mounted on a drone.

  • One of these (called a "Public Eye") appears near the beginning of Robert A. Heinlein's novel Friday. It's used by police to detect crimes in progress.
  • Larry Niven's short story "Cloak of Anarchy" had the Copseye, which was used to monitor Free Parks. It also had a stunner to knock out those breaking the Parks' sole rule: don't hurt others.
  • Uglies: Aya has one of these named Moggle that she treats like a pet.
  • The optic probe device used by the Martians in The War of the Worlds - the book and all movies - roughly fills this trope.
  • In Heart Of Steel, Shark Reef Isle has a number of these patrolling the island lair of super-villain Alistair Mechanus, variously resembling insects or floating balls.

Real Life
  • Micro Air Vehicles are being designed for the army.
  • There was, for a time, a plan to develop softball-sized robots of this type for use on the International Space Station. They would be capable of moving about on their own by using ducted fans to produce thrust. Since the ISS is in a microgravity environment, they would effectively be capable of flying around the station in adherence to the spirit of the trope. Likely served as the inspiration for the SGU Kinos mentioned above.
  • The Air Hogs Hawk-eye is the civilian version, you can even post your findings online.
  • The AR Drone from Parrot has the same capabilities and carries both nose and belly cameras.
    • It spawned an entire family of small helicopter drones (factory- or enthusiast-built) driven by an iPhone or Android device.
Tabletop RPG

Video Game
  • Baldur's Gate 2 had a magical one in the form of the Wizard's Eye Spell. It could go anywhere the player could and was invisible, though not invulnerable. Anything that could see through invisibility, could kill it.
  • As you get closer to Cortex's castle in Crash Bandicoot, these start to appear.
  • Deus Ex had an augmentation that allowed you to deploy one of these to scout (and it could let off an EMP pulse to sabotage electronic devices). It was considered excessively expensive for its utility.
  • Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project has a variation that explodes in close proximity to Duke.
  • Fallout 3: Eyebot robots, have a defence laser but are usually friendly to the player character.
    • Though despite the name, there is no evidence they actually provide surveillance, just floating, moving radios that can defend themselves passably.
      • A RobCo exhibit in Fallout: New Vegas confirms that they can "recognize your face and voice with advanced facial and auditory recognition technology."
    • Some Eyebots in Fallout 3 can call in reinforcements after a certain stage in the game and a random encounter shows two wastelanders discussing whether or not its spying on them whilst it hovers inbetween the pair.
    • In the spinoff game Fallout: New Vegas, your companion Arcade Ganon, who is actually a refugee from the now defunct Enclave and would probably know better, expresses a distrust of your Robot Buddy ED-E, who is a Super Prototype for a model of eyebot that never was produced, specifically because it may be surveiling him.
  • In Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, the player can use a Sikorsky Cypher UAV to scan hostile areas.
  • ''Half-Life 2: Scanners. They hover right in your face and take a snapshot of you, which creates a blinding flash. Destroying them may net you a battery, which charges up your suit a little bit.
  • "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword'' has the Sentrobes, which are flying security cameras with a short-range projectile launcher and the ability to launch self-propelled bombs with a timed fuse.
  • Mario: the hover-cam is operated by the cloud-riding Lakitu's, controlling said camera with a fishing pole, odd but close enough.
  • Mass Effect: standard issue for reporters.
  • Modern Warfare: "OUR UAV IS ONLINE!"
  • Perfect Dark: the "Camspy".
  • [PROTOTYPE]: Drones are able to detect Alex and deploy a reaction squad.
  • StarCraft: Observers
  • In X: Beyond the Frontier the Xperimental Shuttle is equipped with a camera drone that is basically an excuse for the devs to have a free-flying external view.
    • X3: Reunion features the tiny Camera Drone (about twice the size of a space suit) which is used in several missions but is otherwise unavailable for use. The Motion Analysis Relay System script package in X3: Terran Conflict and Albion Prelude in allows the fighter drone to coordinate as "Goblins", which can function as a surveillance net, by towing surveillance satellites around the controlling ship, or remotely deploy satellites far away for exploration or target spotting for the missile frigates
    • X Rebirth has the Beholder ROV, a tiny drone that can be deployed from the Albion Skunk. It's used to scan ships and stations for potential deals, but most players use them for exploring the detailed stations.
  • Ogre Magi in Warcraft II and Warlocks in World of Warcraft have access to a spell, the Eye of Kilrogg, that is essentially a magical version of a surveillance drone (which takes the shape of a big green, disembodied floating eye).
  • The CYPHER drones in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty are cameras with a hover fan. They'll sound the alarm if you're spotted by one, but they don't attack on their own.
  • Remote Eye Cameras in Thief.
  • Halo the Monitors and the sentinels from Combat evolved to 4.
  • Rage has Authority Drones, which are designed to scout ahead and look for Ark survivors. Their usefulness is debatable, as despite having several in the players face over the course of the game the Authority never seem to collect a picture of you.
  • Project Eden has two kinds of deployable drone, a hovering ball with a limited battery life and a tracked rover with a small energy weapon. Both can press buttons.

Western Animation

Web Comics

Alternative Title(s):

Magic Cam