Today, I'm going to discuss how to assemble your own GPS tracker that can be used to track various assets or subjects at significantly less cost. As a private investigator, using GPS is a common tool used in the surveillance game to track subjects whereabouts. There are a ton of options out there and most I found are quite expensive. Most of the GPS devices out there that are applicable for PI use are marketed in the $300+ range and boast a 6 month battery capability. For those that have no interest in easily assembling your own, you can easily order pre assembled devices on Amazon.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not about to spend anywhere near $300 on what is essentially a GPS device, external battery, earth magnet, and pelican case. So I decided to assemble my own, and I was not disappointed. Buying all of these products separately cost me less than half of the price of getting one pre assembled. It took me less than 5 minutes to assemble the pieces to the exact same product.
My Shopping List:
$70ish SpyTech GPS GL-300 Tracker - Plans are rather cheap and run consistent with other GL-300 devices around $25 with 30 second updates and is rather accurate. As long as I have access to a computer with an internet connection, I can access the interface needed to use the device. Battery on its own lasts around 2 weeks or so.
$12 Pelican 1020 Micro Case - Doesn't get any more simple than this. These cases can take a good beating and are waterproof. Which is a perfect housing unit for a GPS device and external battery.
$6-$12 Earth Magnets 80lbs-120lbs - You want to find the round earth magnets that have a hole in the center that allows for a screw to attach it to the pelican case. I suggest either 2x 80lbs magnets or 1 larger earth magnet. This allows the device to attach to any metal portion of the vehicle you are tracking. You want it strong enough it won't get bumped off during the vehicles use.
$15-$30 External USB battery - The trick is to find an external battery that will not automatically turn off just because the device is at a 100%. I found this out using the Anker models which make great batteries, just don't buy them to leave on your GPS devices for this purpose. The idea is to have an external usb battery that will connect to the GPS device inside the pelican case and stay on. This is what gives the GPS the capability of lasting 2-6 months depending on the size of external battery.
All of these items together, you can come up with several different ways to attach the magnet to the case. Use a drill to punch a small hole through the bottom, then use a screw and nut to bind the magnet to the case. I also use gorilla glue or similar agent to help keep it waterproof and bind it further.
The last thing is setting up the GPS and attaching it to the usb external battery and setting it inside the case. I don't completely depend on the case staying closed on it's own, so you can use zip ties or some 100 mph tape to help keep the container closed while it's being used.
All in all, its an easy DIY project and can save you quite a bit of money if your going through these devices pretty regularly. It's to be expected in this business that your going to have the occasional GPS get discovered, fall off, etc. So cutting your expenses by doing a little arts and crafts helps quite a bit.
There are other magnetic cases out there, these are also an option. I'm just telling you that no matter what you choose, it's just a couple of basic parts and can easily be assembled. Just another great tool in the cool guy kit for you. You may not even need the extra battery if you have the capability to retrieve the device and recharge it every couple of weeks. I will give you a tip though, the less exposure you have, the better. This means the less chance you have letting the person you are tracking becoming aware of your activities.
The placement of your device needs to have a solid foundation so the magnets have a good connection with the metal and allows for easy placement and retrieval.
Really the big saver here isn't on the GPS device itself it's just the waterproof magnetic case.