Woman wearing black gloves and a headlamp, holding a gadget, appearing as a spy.

With no help from movies like James Bond or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the life of a spy has been massively glamorised. Equipped with the latest gadgets and equal parts charm and good luck, we perceive a spy to be someone who lives on the edge, going over and above to serve one’s country. Of course, every great spy has an array of high-tech gadgets that give you superpowers. Whilst movies have undoubtedly glamorised spy gadgets, some tech used by real agents looks like it could have been from a spy movie. Organisations like the KGB, MI6 and the CIA have been at the forefront of creating some of the most advanced spy gadgets, so let's take a look at them.

Poison Tipped Umbrellas

If you wanted to kill or seriously harm someone as discretely as possible, the poison-tipped umbrella was the gadget for you. Created by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, these umbrellas were an almost untraceable way to harm someone. The poison concealed in the umbrella tip could be pointed and launched at the desired victim. This gadget was put into use in 1978 by the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov, who an unknown KGB agent in London killed.

Remote Controlled Insects

In the early 1970s, the CIA invented a remote-controlled dragonfly with an audio-listening device, allowing it to eavesdrop on private conversations. With the gadget being so small and needing to fly to ‘blend in’, the remote-controlled dragonfly could only run for 1 minute, as the machine casing was too small to carry a bigger gas engine. The device was also unreliable in even the lightest of winds, as it quickly got blown away, rendering it useless. Whilst the dragonfly spy was never officially deployed, it made help drone technology advance significantly.

Coat Button Cameras

Coat button cameras are a classic type of hidden camera which are still very popular today. This type of hidden gadget allows a camera to be easily concealed whilst picking up a great angle of events from the spy's point of view. The CIA frequently used miniature cameras and microphones, often hidden in necklaces and brooches. These hidden spy cameras are still used today and are widely available to the public, not just intelligence agencies.

Exploding Pencil Cases

One of the slightly quirkier spy gadgets invented was the exploding pencil case. The US made and used this device during the mid to early 1940s. During World War Two, a hidden bomb and a concealed time-delayed detonator were inside the pencil case. With pencil cases being rather random items one would never suspect of being deadly, the exploding pencil case enjoyed a period of success during World War Two. The time-delaying detonator also gave the agent a window of time to flee the scene before the explosion.