Evolution of Aerial Photography

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We have seen lots of stunning aerial photos. Now, photographers use drones and other innovations to take these shots, but that got me thinking, how were people taking aerial photos before drones? Of course, the invention of drones has been a boon to lots of sectors, including photography. But, taking aerial images hasn’t always been this simple. So, let’s take a moment to appreciate the predecessors of mighty drones in photography. 

We’ve come a long way from hot air balloons, gunpowder rockets, kites, and pigeons to airplanes, drones, and satellites. Our tale begins in the nineteenth century.

Hot air balloons :

In 1858, a Frenchman known as “Nadar” took the first successful aerial image from a hot air balloon 262 feet above the ground just outside of Paris. Regrettably, his photographs were misplaced. A few years later, in 1860, James Black shot a series of aerial pictures from a tethered hot air balloon 2,000 feet over Boston, making history in America.

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Rockets in Photography :

Alfred Maul, a German engineer, displayed a gunpowder rocket in 1903 that reached 2,600 feet in eight seconds and then dropped a parachute-equipped camera that took photographs as it descended. Alfred wasn’t the only one who experimented with rockets. Dr. Robert Goddard of Auburn, Massachusetts, was in the same boat.


George Lawrence devised a way of capturing panoramas from kites a few years later. He attached large-format cameras with curved film plates to kites and took photos using an insulated core of steel wire kite line. But, of course, the kites would then have to be lowered, and the camera would have to be reloaded.

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Photography by Pigeons photographers :

At the same time, Julius Neubronner, a German pharmacist, fitted cameras to his prescription-delivery pigeons to follow their journeys. Neubronner received a patent in 1908 for his idea of aerial photography using a pigeon photographer. He became well-known across the world as a result of his innovation.

Source: airandspace

Photography by use of airplanes

The acquisition of commercial aerial photography began in the 1920s. For the convenience of the pilots and photographers, several planes featured heated, enclosed cabins. In addition, the airplanes can fold their wings for railroad transit to survey areas.

During the World Wars, military leaders quickly recognized the value of having up-to-date aerial photography of the battlefield. So, they installed cameras aboard various aircraft. Images were used to track out enemy movements and plot future strikes.

Source: military-history


Israeli engineers created versions fitted with video cameras to watch individuals of interest for hours at a period in the 1980s, and the United States quickly followed suit.

The beginning of the Cold War saw more advancements in aerial photography, owing in part to the Space Race. The race between the US and the Soviet Union to outperform each other in space led to satellite imaging, the pinnacle of unmanned aerial photography.

To sum it up

We’ve come a long way from the first aerial shots, and we can only imagine the technology of tomorrow. From taking shots on hot air balloons to having easy access to drones or google street view, aerial shots have been a long journey. We now have access to an enormous quantity of aerial imagery thanks to very inexpensive drones, sophisticated airplane cameras, and satellites taking daily photos of every parcel of Earth’s landmass.

Only time will tell where the next 100 years of technological progress will take us!

Also Read: 10 Simple Real Estate Photo Editing Tips.