What is a USB dead drop? ‘Dead Drops’ is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. This network is made up of USB drives that are embedded in walls, buildings and other public places. Anyone is free to access, download, and upload. It is very similar to geocaching but with data. The first USB dead drop network of five locations was created by Berlin-based artist Aram Bartholl in 2010. Since then, there have been over 1,000 dead drop locations that have been registered at deaddrops.com (Including one outside the Instructables office.) For a walk through of how to set up a standard USB dead drop, check out this instructable by user frenzy.

Up until now, this has been mostly restricted to urban locations. In this instructable, I am going to attempt to expand this project beyond city limits by showing everyone how to embed USB drives in natural fixtures such as trees and rocks.

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Steps

Step #1: Materials

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Create a USB Dead Drop in Nature
  • Materials: USB flash drive Plumber's tape Wood Glue
  • Tools: Cordless Drill Drill bit set Screw driver, or other tool to pry open the flash drive

Step #2: Remove the Housing of the USB Drive

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Create a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in Nature

The first step is to open up the housing of the flash drive and remove all the unnecessary plastic. You can usually pry open the housing with a small screw driver or knife. Another option is to just squeeze the housing with a pair of pliers at the seem. Continue removing parts until only the USB connector and the circuit board remain.

Step #3: Wrap the USB Drive in Plumber's Tape

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Create a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in Nature

Applying a layer of plumber's tape around the circuit board of the drive helps to keep it a little more protect. Don't go overboard, one or two layers is plenty.

Step #4: Select a Dead Tree or Stump as a Dead Drop Location

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Create a USB Dead Drop in Nature

Select a dead tree to locate your deaddrop. I do not recommend using a healthy tree for this project. In addition to the damage caused by drilling, the cavity that you create also provides a potential site for mold, rot and insect to take up residence. Because of this, I recommend using a tree that is obviously dead, fallen over, or just a stump.

Step #5: Drill Holes in the Trunk to Make Room for Your USB Drive

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Create a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in Nature
  • The USB connector and board of a typical USB drive is about 0.51inch (13mm) wide x 0.20inch (5mm) thick. There are a number of ways that you can drill out a slot to accommodate for it. The simplest and fastest method is to drill a single hole that is large enough to fit the whole drive inside of it. A 1/2" drill bit will usually suffice for this.
  • If you want to make a smaller imprint on the surface and make the end product look a little cleaner, you can drill a series of smaller holes in a line to make a slot. Each hole should be the same thickness as the USB drive (about 1/4 inch). Then you can finish the shaping with a knife or file.
  • Be sure to drill your hole is a part of the tree that is solid and free from rot.

Step #6: Apply the Wood Glue and Insert the USB Drive

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Create a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in Nature
  • Clear the saw dust and wood shavings from the hole by blowing on it. Then fill the hole most of the way with wood glue. Slowly insert the USB drive into the hole until the back edge of the metal on the connector port is even with the surface of the tree. Some of the glue will squeeze out around the edges. Wipe off the excess using some nearby leaves.
  • Once the glue dries, you have a USB deaddrop site out in nature.

Step #7: Cover or Cap the Flash Drive

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Create a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in Nature

If you wish to prolong the life of the drive, you can put a cap on it to at least partially protect it from the weather. If left unprotected, the drive will corrode over time.

Step #8: Finished Dead Drop Site

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Create a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in NatureCreate a USB Dead Drop in Nature
  • The last step is to upload the instruction text files and any other files that you want to share. You can find the readme file here: http://deaddrops.com/download/readme.txt. You can find the dead drop manifesto here: http://deaddrops.com/download/deaddrops-manifesto.txt.
  • I also decided to also load a copy of "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein onto the flash drive (Yes, I got the idea from this xkcd comic by Randall Munroe).
  • To document the dead drop location, it helps if you take three pictures of the location (up close medium and far away). This makes it easier for others to find your dead drop.

Step #9: Stone Dead Drop Location

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Create a USB Dead Drop in Nature

You don't need to limit yourself to just trees. You can also setup a dead drop in stone. The process for this variation is identical to the original procedure that is used for brick and mortar locations. Just find a relatively soft rock, drill the hole with a mortar drill bit and use concrete patch or fast drying cement instead of glue to fill the hole.

Step #10: Register the Dead Drop Location on Deaddrops.com

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Create a USB Dead Drop in Nature

When you get back home, you can register the dead drop location here: http://deaddrops.com/dead-drops/db-map/.. This helps others to find it. Then check on the dead drop periodically to see if it is still working and if it is being used. As with all files of unknown origin, always be careful to avoid viruses.

Step #11: Special Thanks for Contributions

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Create a USB Dead Drop in Nature

I would like to thank Aram Bartholl, Instructables user frenzy and Randall Munroe for images, video and information that they provided via creative commons. So to check out more work by Aram Bartholl you can visit his website here: http://datenform.de/. To find more work by frenzy you can check out his profile here: http://www.instructables.com/member/frenzy/. To find more xkcd comics by Randall Munroe you can find his site here: http://xkcd.com/

Jason Poel Smith

My name is Jason Poel Smith. I have an undergraduate degree in Engineering that is 50% Mechanical Engineering and 50% Electrical Engineering. I have worked in a variety of industries from hydraulic aerial lifts to aircraft tooling. I currently spend most of my time chasing around my new baby. In my spare time I make the how-to series "DIY Hacks and How Tos."


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