Six years ago remote surveillance was a hot topic. PhotoFax had just finished a fifteen month testing period and was finally ready to unveil the Unmanned Surveillance Vehicle. At the time we called it “remote surveillance”, because we were remotely logging onto the camera and controlling it. Our high definition cameras were hidden away in a secure vehicle, completely out of sight from even the most suspicious claimant. Our cameras were unique as they were monitored at our corporate headquarters and were able to pan, tilt, and zoom as if a real investigator was in the vehicle.
Clients were extremely impressed, and in the first year we averaged over 70 minutes of film on each case. As time went on, potential prospects that were unfamiliar with us were saying they knew about remote surveillance and have had terrible results. Other companies were trying to duplicate the technology, but were taking shortcuts to save money. The most common method of remote surveillance these days is putting a drop camera in a construction cone, or a fake rock, and leaving it outside a claimant’s residence. The investigative company has no way to remotely log on and see what the camera is recording, nor does it have the ability to pan, tilt, and zoom to get a positive ID shot.
If that has become the official definition of remote surveillance, then it is a recipe for disaster. In most cases you will come away with poor film quality of someone who may look like the claimant yet they cannot be positively identified. The worst case scenario is the claimant realizes surveillance is being performed on them, and they snatch the construction cone that holds the drop camera. Another outcome could be the surveillance does obtain film of the claimant, but their lawyer points out that the construction cone was positioned on private property. This means the film your company paid top dollar for was obtained illegally and is useless.
Several investigation companies using this “remote surveillance” method have experienced these pitfalls. In fact, a few national companies have completely given up on remote surveillance because of the lack of results. This is why PhotoFax tries to separate itself from the word “remote surveillance” altogether.
Take the I-Phone for example. If I was explaining the I-Phone to someone who has never seen a smart phone before and I used the word “phone” they wouldn’t understand how powerful that little device can be. The Unmanned Surveillance Vehicle is similar to that, in which anyone calling it remote surveillance does not understand how impactful it can be with your claims. In March 2017 we averaged 59.8 minutes of film per case. That’s nearly an hour of film every time you assign an Unmanned Surveillance Vehicle case and that’s not even into the warm weather season yet.
Unfortunately, the word remote surveillance has been tainted which is why you need to protect yourself next time someone tries to sell you on it. Ask them if the camera is secure, and do they have the ability to remotely log onto it? Can they control the camera and obtain a positive ID shot? If they answer NO to any of these questions, I recommend not spending your money on it.