A new drone type helicopter with camera tested by Gulf News. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Residents are worried about the use of mini-drones by individuals, which they say is on the rise. These easy-to-buy miniature helicopters are equipped with cameras and video recording devices and residents say they can be used to spy on people.

The drones can be bought for as little as Dh220 at DragonMart and between Dh2,000 and Dh13,000 at other stores.

Gulf News bought a radio-controlled four rotor copter with a high-definition camera, which can also record video, for just Dh220. It is equipped with a base that can rotate 360 degrees, allowing the lens to photograph in all directions.

We flew our drone outside. Its video recording was of high quality and its pictures were very clear.

Saeed Al Habshi, an Al Ain resident, told Gulf News he has seen many such devices in the skies above Al Ain and hopes the authorities will limit the use of such technology.

“If I am sitting in my garden with my family and see such planes above our heads I immediately take them into the house as I’m afraid the plane’s owner might take images of us and post them on social networks.”

He said that he had seen people misusing this technology, especially on Jumeriah beach where they take pictures of women and post the images on websites as a joke.

“People on the beach assume these plane’s owners are practising their hobby of flying planes and putting on displays in the sky.”

‘Scared’

Al Habshi said nowadays in Al Ain a number of young people can be seen flying drones with cameras on in parks and near swimming pools and that members of the public do not realise the helicopter is taking images of them or recording them.

He said that no one in his neighbourhood would imagine such a thing.

“The helicopter flies between houses and has the ability to hover in front of you, can you believe it?” Al Habshi said.

He added he had seen many images of people posted on Instagram, mostly women on the beach, who did not know their pictures had been taken.

“It could send people behind bars and get them in trouble,” Al Habshi said. “I hope that the authorities in the UAE act and regulate the use of such hazardous goods.”

Mona Al Suwaidi, also an Al Ain resident and mother of three girls and three boys, told Gulf News her eldest son ‘Mohammad’ asked her to buy him a drone.

“Really I was scared to see the horrible things which could be done via this aircraft. I took the plane from my son and kept it in a safe place, at the same time, I do not trust any plane that I see flying in the sky …I feel it will record a video of my family or images ….I run quickly to the nearest shelter to hide myself and my family ..as if it’s raining heavily outside,” she said.

I wish the authorities would take a hand in this matter and ensure such goods do not end up in the hands of young people who might misuse them, she said.

Loa’ai Ahmad, a 35-year-old government employee from Ajman, told Gulf News that he bought his plane from Thailand for Dh120 and fixes a camera to it when he goes to the desert or mountainous areas.

Ahmad said he used his drone responsibly but at the same time wondered whether such technology was legal.

Lieutenant General Saif Abdullah Al Shafa’ar, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior, said that these pilotless rotorcrafts, which are sometimes fitted with a high-definition camera, are sold without any constraints in the US and Europe, and online as well.

He said that the Federal Aviation Authority is the concerned body regarding this issue. He called upon all concerned parties and security authorities to hold a meeting to lay down regulations.

He pointed out that this pilotless rotorcraft is not prohibited in the country but its use will be regulated to protect people’s privacy.

He said that the police could intervene and take action if they received complaints from residents.