But here’s a curious fact; pictures of the couple or Archie taken illegally from the air are “100% impossible” to sell in major markets such as the U.S. and U.K., according to industry insiders.
In fact, the only picture taken from a drone of the Sussexes so far to see the light of day was an image of Harry playing with his dog that was published by an Australian outlet, and even this was swiftly removed from the internet, after, one presumes, the Sussexes made representations to the publisher.
So what are these drone operators, many of whom launch their crafts into the air from a public hiking trail that runs almost adjacent to the property in which Harry and Meghan are temporarily residing, actually after?
Harry and Meghan, a friend told The Daily Beast, have no special insights: “They can only make a judgment on what they see and experience, and what they see and experience is drones and helicopters flying over their backyard, paparazzi tailing them and nearly causing crashes, cars following them and photographers following Meghan’s mother.”
The fact that any snatched pictures taken by drones can’t easily be sold doesn’t change that experience, the friend said, adding, “It only serves to underscore the level of intrusiveness. It’s like surveillance.”
An attitude of doing-it because-they-can on the part of the pilots certainly seems to emanate from discussions with those in the industry.
“The drone activity is all about getting new general views of the house to move the story on,” one veteran of LA’s paparazzi scene told The Daily Beast. “Obviously, at first, when the house was the new thing, it was all about getting a picture of the house.
“Now, it’s about what has changed, what changes are they making. For example, when they put screens up to shield the house from being seen by photographers, well, that’s new thing. ‘Oh look, there is a fence.’
“So now guys are flying drones to see what else is going on: if there is a play area for Archie, for example, or a marquee for the wedding anniversary, that kind of thing.
“If you can move the story forward with new information, then those pictures would of course sell. But the reality is that the returns on pictures of the house are diminishing fast.”
One well-known and reputable drone pilot who occasionally freelances for the LA picture agencies told The Daily Beast: “I have stayed away from doing Meghan and Harry’s house. One reason is that they keep changing the law, another is that it is just not a great way to get a picture of a person because the camera angles on drones tend to be very wide and you just see the top of their head. And even if I did get a picture, who would buy it?”
So why are people continuing to fly the drones over their heads then, does he think?
The operator said, “I think it’s about seeing what they are doing. Seeing if they are in, for example.”
It’s almost unimaginable for normal people to picture themselves living in a world where this kind of regular tracking of their lives by drones is normal, but, critics say, the presence of a massively intrusive media corps in LA should not have taken Harry and Meghan by surprise. (Just ask Ben Affleck and his new girlfriend Ana de Armas, whose regular walks with Affleck’s dogs around their Pacific Palisades neighborhood have become a staple of gossip sites in recent weeks.)
However, there is, most people would agree, something different between being papped on a public street and the idea of a drone spying on you in your backyard, speculatively just checking out if your daily routine has changed in some way, whether or not those pictures are for sale.
For Harry and Meghan to ask for the sanctity of their family’s privacy and security in their own home to be respected as they plan the next steps in their lives is far from diva-like petulance, their friends say.
“It seems people just forget that Harry and Meghan are real people,” the friend says. “They haven’t done anything to draw attention to themselves. They have, for the most part, just literally been at home, in lockdown, doing their charitable Zoom calls and planning the next steps of their journey.”
It does however seem inevitable that illegal drone activity may become a regular intrusion on their lives, not least because high-quality devices with GPS navigation, remote piloting and auto-pilot functions can now be purchased for less than $1000.
This means any photographer or hobbyist who is prepared to flout the regulations (the Hollywood Hills are in Class C airspace, meaning Air Traffic Control approval should technically be obtained prior to flying) can take a lengthy look right into Meghan and Harry’s house and garden, just on the off-chance something reportable has changed.
Insiders don’t spend much time debating the rights and wrongs of the drone era. They simply shrug that this is just the way things are now. “There are a lot of paps in Los Angeles, and a lot of these guys have drones,” said one, “They want a slice of the action.”