Four Facts You Never Knew About Aerial Photography
I’m enchanted by drone photography.
Ever since I received my FAA UAS (unmanned aerial vehicle) license, I’ve never gotten tired of launching my drone into the sky and taking both low and high altitude shots of the world around me. Living in Clearwater, Florida makes this especially magical because the views from above of our award-winning beach and pier are stunning, to say the least.
Now, what I’m finding is people are still just as enchanted by drones and drone photography as I am. It’s 2019 and we’re in this interesting area of technology when the price of drones has gone down so that the average consumer can purchase one, though the technology is still so new that they aren’t as prevalent as say, a normal point and shoot camera. Some people have waved to my drone - others have shaded their eyes and watched it zoom around the air, childlike delight in their eyes. Parents point and gawk, and so do children. I feel privileged to be able to witness these reactions, as I know in most likely another few short years drones will be just as normalized as a plane passing overhead.
But that got me wondering - just when did drone photography, or more in general aerial photography, become more prevalent?
Up in the Air Since 1858
Of course, we’ve been taking aerial photographs long before drones were invented. The first successful aerial photograph was made in 1858 by the artist, novelist and journalist Nadar, on a hot air balloon tethered 262 ft in the air just outside of Paris. Unfortunately that photograph hasn’t survived, but the oldest one that has is by Joseph Wallace Black, also on a hot air balloon tethered 2,000 ft above Boston.
2. Pigeon Photographers
I feel like I just need the heading and this image to suffice… but I’ll explain a little more. We kept experimenting. Besides hot air balloons, we put cameras on rockets. We took gorgeous panoramas on kites. And in 1903, a German apothecary named Julius Neubronner, curious about what path his pigeons took while they were delivering prescriptions, strapped little cameras around their pigeon necks while they were out and was successfully able to process some interesting birds’ eye view (no pun intended) photos of the city streets. Do the copyrights belong to the pigeons? Wikipedia would say so.
3. The Pioneer
Unsurprisingly, the first modern drones emerged in the 1980s as a way to monitor persons of interest. Emulating Israeli engineers, the United States’s remote-controlled Pioneer drone was utilized during the first Gulf War, leading to drones with far more intimidating names - the Predator, the Reaper, the Raven. Whether you agree or disagree, military commanders found them particularly useful for long term monitoring and bombing without putting the lives of soldiers at risk.
4. DIY Drones to Commercial Product
During the 2000s, DIY drone building became more prevalent as the technology became more easy to access. As hardware and software like collision detection systems, GPS positioning and waypoints emerged, companies were soon able to sell drones commercially to regular consumers. Ever since then the technology has taken off - every year there are new updates and new discoveries, and the price of both professional and hobbyist drones has driven downward.
From kites, rockets, hot air balloons and pigeons, I’m astonished by the rich history that has lead to drone photography as it is today. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to fly one professionally, taking images that people in the past never even dreamed of, from homes on the market, to vacant lots by the ocean. Aerial photography is still such a new thing that whenever a broker asks me whether I think drone photos are necessary, more often than not I say yes. This isn’t because I want extra business, but just the fact that potential buyers are able to see a house and the surrounding area from such a new perspective really makes the listing stand out. Maybe in 5 or 10 years these sights will be commonplace, but for now, I’ll embrace where we’re at presently and deliver images meant to take your breath away.