Aerial photography has come a long way since a man took photographs over the side of a hot air balloon. We are now at a stage where a high definition video can be filmed by a mini aircraft speeding through a city, and this begs the question of what is next. For now, we have to be content with the developments so far, and here are some of the milestones of aviation photography up until now.
The Early Years 1850-1900
Our first milestone must be the first aerial photographs, and those were taken by a Frenchman named Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, who took photos above the town of Petite-Becetre, France in 1858; though he only managed to rise to 80m. The first aerial photographs we can look at come from 1860, and show the city of Boston, USA, and these pictures were taken from the dizzy height of 630m. These early photographs (also taken using kites, pigeons, and rockets) were used to design maps and to help in the construction of roads around the world, and were considered as innovative then as satellite photography is today.
A View From a Plane
From the early 1900s, people started to use airplanes to take photographs, and this was the next milestone. Unsurprisingly, Wilbur Wright was the first person to take aerial photographs from a plane, and as early as 1909 was using them to market his flying machines. This was probably the first use of aerial photography in designing a marketing campaign, but it was certainly not the last. With the advent of the First World War, aerial photography became invaluable, and the Germans were the first to take the information gathering seriously; though the French and the British were close on their heels. Before long it was obvious how useful this new tool was, and the commanders on the ground were soon using information from the air to make decisions about movements on the ground.
The Birth of an Industry
After the war it became obvious that aerial photography had many uses, and it was the discovery of these uses that becomes our next milestone. An industry quickly grew up around the uses of aerial photography as people saw its benefits. Whether using an aerial survey to decide on the design of a town or a building, or designing a road system, aerial photographs had obvious benefits. From manufacturing to construction, and from wildlife management to golf course design aerial photography has become irreplaceable.
The Modern Age
The final milestone is the development of aerial video photography; which seems to be particularly suited to the modern age. This technology means it is now possible to use an unmanned craft to fly through a city, taking a video of your latest building project as it flies. The aerial video can then be used in your latest marketing campaign, built into the design of your website’s landing page, or used as a virtual advertising campaign. The high quality of these types of fly through video makes them appealing to designers of all types and, in an age where video is king, aerial photography has become the designer’s choice for many of their design ideas.
This is the story so far. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?