Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Differences Between Surveillance And Reconnaissance

The military field is truly interesting. Though most of us get only to know the military’s actions through television programs and crime novels, they never fail to amaze us. How is the military able to protect and defend a country? How do they catch culprits and solve crimes? When it comes to tactics, the military always stick to their surveillance and reconnaissance methods. In this article, we will be pointing out the differences between surveillance and reconnaissance.

Surveillance and reconnaissance are just two of the four practices of the military when it comes to the battlefield functions. Surveillance and reconnaissance complete the ISTAR practices. ISTAR stands for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance. ISTAR is necessary in order to assist the combat forces of the military. These practices are greatly helpful in order to emerge as the victor in a battlefield.


Surveillance and reconnaissance are often confused together because these two practices involve the activity of monitoring. To differentiate surveillance from reconnaissance, let us understand first where the word comes from. The word surveillance comes from the French words ‘sur’ and ‘veiller’. ‘Sur’ means ‘from above’; while ‘veiller’ means ‘to watch’. As a whole, surveillance means ‘watching over’.

So how does the military do surveillance? They do surveillance by monitoring the behavior and activities of people. They do this with the aid of electronic equipment, which may come in the form of CCTV cameras, for example. Surveillance is not actually exclusive to the military, but we’re discussing surveillance from the point of view of the military and the government, since these sectors are two that greatly benefit from this activity.

When one uses a surveillance camera, the monitoring or observation can be done from a distance. Another way to do surveillance is through intercepting electronically transmitted information coming from the internet or even phone calls. Surveillance can also be done without the aid of electronic equipment. The military and the government can assign human intelligence agents to do surveillance.

Surveillance is beneficial for the military and the government because it can help them to recognize and monitor for threats and criminal activities. In other words, they will get an upper hand in maintaining social control.


As for reconnaissance, it has several terms in the different dialects of the English language. Reconnaissance is also known as recce (British English), recon (North American English and Australian English), reconnoitre (British English) and reconnoiter (North American English). Source: Wikipedia.org

Reconnaissance is another way to monitor enemy movements. However, in reconnaissance, the military force sends their troops ahead in order to gather information. Their troops can either be military intelligence specialists, rangers, or scouts. The military sends troops for reconnaissance in order to further explore the area and obtain more vital information regarding their enemies.

The military force can do reconnaissance by boarding ships, submarines, or aircraft, or just putting up a manned observation post. The military force utilizes spies when doing their reconnaissance. And I think reconnaissance is more complex than surveillance because of the use of spies. Spies need to be skilled. They are the men infiltrating enemy lines but they are often non-combatants.

To sum it up, surveillance and reconnaissance are essential tools in the combat field. The more information the military has gathered, the more chances they have to devise a better plan against the enemy force.


  1. Surveillance and reconnaissance are often confused with each other because both of these practices involve the activity of monitoring.

  2. Surveillance is usually done with the aid of electronic equipment like surveillance cameras, or intercepting phone lines and internet traffic.

  3. Reconnaissance involves the use of agents and spies in the enemy field.

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  1. Hi,

    Surveillance typically involves monitoring something you know, like “the perimeter” your area/land, or general surveillance of, for example “a town” or and object or person. You know as in “police surveillance”. You typically monitor for exceptions, as you know the thing your monitoring.

    Reconnaissance is what you do (or have done) when you are not familiar with some place/area or you need additional (actionable) information on.

    Spies may play a part in informationgathering, but can provide a wide spectrum of information, a lot of which may be non-actionable or old(er) or from other sources.

    A spy may do recon, but that is the act of gathering specific information on a specific subject, personably (or first account) and timely.

    Both reconnaissance and surveillance deal with current (actionable) information. Spies deal in information.

  2. I am still confuse to get the differences between the Hostile surveillance and Reconnaissance.

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