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"This category [science fiction] excludes rocket ships that make U-turns, serpent men of Neptune that lust after human maidens, and stories by authors who flunked their Boy Scout merit badge tests in descriptive astronomy."
- Robert Heinlein

Flying Robot Drone Probe  
  A remote-controlled flying drone used for remote investigation and surveillance.  

Rawlins said, “This is going to sound naive, I know, Charles. But why don’t we just come down from here and land the scout-plane in the middle of that central plaza?”

“Let me show you,” said Boardman.

He spoke a command. A robot drone probe detached itself from the belly of the plane and streaked toward the city. Board-man and Rawlins followed the flight of the blunt gray metal projectile until it was only a few score meters above the tops of the buildings. Through its faceted eye they had a sharp view of the city, revealing the intricate texture of much of the stonework. Suddenly the drone probe vanished. There was a burst of incandescence, a puff of greenish smoke—and then nothing at all.

From The Man in the Maze, by Robert Silverberg.
Published by Avon Books in 1969
Additional resources -

Compare to the Drone Floater Camera from Runaway (1985) by Michael Crichton and the robot tracking device from Vulcan's Hammer (1960) by Philip K. Dick.

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  More Ideas and Technology from The Man in the Maze
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Silverberg
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