Nine Network's 60 Minutes program is facing a police investigation after it flew what was described as an "unmanned surveillance drone" over an immigration detention camp on Christmas Island.
But show presenter Liam Bartlett has refused to apologise for the airborne spy mission, saying he was frustrated after repeatedly being blocked from entering the camps to expose cramped conditions.
The Immigration Department said it called Australian Federal Police to the island's North West Point camp on Wednesday to investigate several "low level incursions into the airspace" over the centre.
The department said the TV program used a remote-controlled "aerial drone" to film the centre.
"Authorities were not notified of the incursions beforehand and have still not been given an explanation as to why they occurred," a spokesman said.
The department said some asylum seekers were distressed by the drone and warned any broadcast of the vision of those inside the camps could put them in danger if they were returned home.
Bartlett, who was on Christmas Island this week doing a report on asylum seekers and immigration detention, admitted the "unmanned drone" was flown over the camp but he was tight-lipped about exactly what type of craft the crew used.
A source familiar with the incident said it was a remote controlled helicopter with a video camera.
Bartlett said he tried to enter one island camp without a camera with a refugee advocate from Children Out of Detention but was turned away. "The level of security is just astounding so we had to deploy a drone to see what is going on," he said.
Children Out of Detention spokeswoman Dianne Hiles questioned why Bartlett and one of the group's advocates were barred from entering without cameras. "If things are going on they don't want the press to see, isn't that a concern," she said.The AFP confirmed it was investigating "to determine whether or not an offence may have been committed".