‘Spy copters’ easily available

PETALING JAYA - Equipped with high-definition cameras and rechargeable batteries that last up to 15 minutes, "spy copters" are easily available at shopping malls here.

The remote-controlled aerial vehicles, generally used for aerial photography and mapping, can fly up to 13 storeys high. They are also built for rainy conditions.

A seller at Paradigm Mall, who did not want to be named, said the "spy copters" cost between RM1,200 (S$465) and RM1,500, depending on their specifications, and were popular.

"A lot of people are buying this now. Sales are very good. Even people from other countries come here to buy it," she said.

Another store owner said he had seen good sales these days.

"These hexacopters are very popular among remote-controlled 'toy' enthusiasts. They do not mind paying more to get the latest gadgets with the best features," he said.

At a press conference on Friday, MCA Youth chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong showed the press a remote-controlled aerial vehicle which was allegedly spying on his bungalow in Bukit Tiara in Cheras.

He said his neighbour's son discovered the vehicle on the rooftop balcony and removed a chip attached to a video camera in the hexacopter before playing video clips recorded by the camera on the computer.

While some people are questioning the legitimacy of such gadgets, criminal lawyer Gerard Lazarus said privacy laws do not extend to the airspace above a house.

"Unless the copters enter your house, you may not be able to argue that it is trespassing. If the helicopter was taking footage of the general area, the operator has not committed an offence unless it is proven that he was specifically spying on you."

According to the Penal Code, placing a spy camera in premises without the owner's consent is an offence under Section 447 for criminal trespassing. If images of indecent photos or videos of a person are recorded and displayed to the public, then it falls under Section 509 for sexual harassment.

Wanita MCA vice-chairman Datuk Heng Seai Kie said: "Anything is possible at this moment. Criminals or maybe even a secret admirer could be responsible for it. The best thing is to hand the matter to police."

DAP election strategist Dr Ong Kian Ming said spying on politicians had occurred on several occasions, citing the case of Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim who stumbled upon a video-recording device in 2010 after hearing a beeping sound from behind the window drapes.