Aerial photography is the taking of photographs from an aircraft or
other flying object. Platforms for aerial photography include
fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or
"drones"), balloons, blimps and dirigibles, rockets, pigeons, kites,
parachutes, stand-alone telescoping and vehicle-mounted poles. Mounted
cameras may be triggered remotely or automatically; hand-held
photographs may be taken by a photographer.
Aerial photography should not be confused with air-to-air photography,
where one or more aircraft are used as chase planes that "chase" and
photograph other aircraft in flight.
1.1 Early history
1.2 World War I
1.3 Commercial aerial photography
1.4 World War II
3.2 Radio-controlled model aircraft
4.2 United States
4.3 United Kingdom
6 Aerial video
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Honoré Daumier, "Nadar élevant la Photographie à la hauteur de
l'Art" (Nadar elevating
Photography to Art), published in Le
Boulevard, May 25, 1862.
Aerial photography was first practiced by the French photographer and
balloonist Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known as "Nadar", in 1858 over
Paris, France. However, the photographs he produced no longer exist
and therefore the earliest surviving aerial photograph is titled
'Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It.' Taken by James
Wallace Black and
Samuel Archer King
Samuel Archer King on October 13, 1860, it depicts
Boston from a height of 630m.
Antique postcard using kite photo technique. (circa 1911)
Kite aerial photography
Kite aerial photography was pioneered by British meteorologist E.D.
Archibald in 1882. He used an explosive charge on a timer to take
photographs from the air. Frenchman
Arthur Batut began using kites
for photography in 1888, and wrote a book on his methods in
Samuel Franklin Cody
Samuel Franklin Cody developed his advanced 'Man-lifter
War Kite' and succeeded in interesting the British
War Office with its
The first use of a motion picture camera mounted to a heavier-than-air
aircraft took place on April 24, 1909, over Rome in the 3:28 silent
film short, Wilbur Wright und seine Flugmaschine.
World War I
Giza pyramid complex, photographed from Eduard Spelterini's balloon on
November 21, 1904
The use of aerial photography rapidly matured during the war, as
reconnaissance aircraft were equipped with cameras to record enemy
movements and defences. At the start of the conflict, the usefulness
of aerial photography was not fully appreciated, with reconnaissance
being accomplished with map sketching from the air.
Germany adopted the first aerial camera, a Görz, in 1913. The French
began the war with several squadrons of Blériot observation aircraft
equipped with cameras for reconnaissance. The French Army developed
procedures for getting prints into the hands of field commanders in
Frederick Charles Victor Laws
Frederick Charles Victor Laws started aerial photography experiments
in 1912 with No.1 Squadron of the
Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps (later No. 1
Squadron RAF), taking photographs from the British dirigible Beta. He
discovered that vertical photos taken with 60% overlap could be used
to create a stereoscopic effect when viewed in a stereoscope, thus
creating a perception of depth that could aid in cartography and in
intelligence derived from aerial images. The
Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps recon
pilots began to use cameras for recording their observations in 1914
and by the
Battle of Neuve Chapelle
Battle of Neuve Chapelle in 1915, the entire system of
German trenches was being photographed. In 1916 the
Austro-Hungarian Monarchy made vertical camera axis aerial photos
above Italy for map-making.
A German observation plane, the Rumpler Taube.
The first purpose-built and practical aerial camera was invented by
John Moore-Brabazon in 1915 with the help of the
Thornton-Pickard company, greatly enhancing the efficiency of aerial
photography. The camera was inserted into the floor of the aircraft
and could be triggered by the pilot at intervals. Moore-Brabazon also
pioneered the incorporation of stereoscopic techniques into aerial
photography, allowing the height of objects on the landscape to be
discerned by comparing photographs taken at different angles.
By the end of the war aerial cameras had dramatically increased in
size and focal power and were used increasingly frequently as they
proved their pivotal military worth; by 1918 both sides were
photographing the entire front twice a day, and had taken over half a
million photos since the beginning of the conflict. In January 1918,
General Allenby used five Australian pilots from No. 1 Squadron AFC to
photograph a 624 square miles (1,620 km2) area in Palestine as an
aid to correcting and improving maps of the Turkish front. This was a
pioneering use of aerial photography as an aid for cartography.
Lieutenants Leonard Taplin, Allan Runciman Brown, H. L. Fraser, Edward
Patrick Kenny, and L. W. Rogers photographed a block of land
stretching from the Turkish front lines 32 miles (51 km) deep
into their rear areas. Beginning 5 January, they flew with a fighter
escort to ward off enemy fighters. Using Royal
Aircraft Factory BE.12
Martinsyde airplanes, they not only overcame enemy air attacks,
but also had to contend with 65 mph (105 km/h) winds,
antiaircraft fire, and malfunctioning equipment to complete their
Commercial aerial photography
The first commercial aerial photography company in the UK was
Aerofilms Ltd, founded by World War I veterans Francis Wills and
Claude Graham White
Claude Graham White in 1919. The company soon expanded into a business
with major contracts in Africa and Asia as well as in the UK.
Operations began from the
Stag Lane Aerodrome
Stag Lane Aerodrome at Edgware, using the
aircraft of the London Flying School. Subsequently, the Aircraft
Manufacturing Company (later the De Havilland
Aircraft Company), hired
Airco DH.9 along with pilot entrepreneur Alan Cobham.
New York City
New York City 1930, aerial photograph of Fairchild Aerial Surveys Inc.
Aerofilms carried out vertical photography for survey and
mapping purposes. During the 1930s, the company pioneered the science
of photogrammetry (mapping from aerial photographs), with the Ordnance
Survey amongst the company's clients.
Another successful pioneer of the commercial use of aerial photography
was the American
Sherman Fairchild who started his own aircraft firm
Aircraft to develop and build specialized aircraft for high
altitude aerial survey missions. One Fairchild aerial survey
aircraft in 1935 carried unit that combined two synchronized cameras,
and each camera having five six inch lenses with a ten-inch lenses and
took photos from 23,000 feet. Each photo covered two hundred and
twenty five square miles. One of its first government contracts was an
aerial survey of New Mexico to study soil erosion. A year later,
Fairchild introduced a better high altitude camera with nine-lens in
one unit that could take a photo of 600 square miles with each
exposure from 30,000 feet.
World War II
Sidney Cotton's Lockheed 12A, in which he made a high-speed
reconnaissance flight in 1940.
Sidney Cotton and
Flying Officer Maurice Longbottom of the RAF
were among the first to suggest that airborne reconnaissance may be a
task better suited to fast, small aircraft which would use their speed
and high service ceiling to avoid detection and interception. Although
this seems obvious now, with modern reconnaissance tasks performed by
fast, high flying aircraft, at the time it was radical
They proposed the use of Spitfires with their armament and radios
removed and replaced with extra fuel and cameras. This led to the
development of the Spitfire PR variants. Spitfires proved to be
extremely successful in their reconnaissance role and there were many
variants built specifically for that purpose. They served initially
with what later became No. 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (PRU).
In 1928, the
RAF developed an electric heating system for the aerial
camera. This allowed reconnaissance aircraft to take pictures from
very high altitudes without the camera parts freezing. Based at
RAF Medmenham, the collection and interpretation of such photographs
became a considerable enterprise.
Cotton's aerial photographs were far ahead of their time. Together
with other members of the 1 PRU, he pioneered the techniques of
high-altitude, high-speed stereoscopic photography that were
instrumental in revealing the locations of many crucial military and
intelligence targets. According to R.V. Jones, photographs were used
to establish the size and the characteristic launching mechanisms for
V-1 flying bomb
V-1 flying bomb and the V-2 rocket. Cotton also worked on
ideas such as a prototype specialist reconnaissance aircraft and
further refinements of photographic equipment. At the peak, the
British flew over 100 reconnaissance flights a day, yielding 50,000
images per day to interpret. Similar efforts were taken by other
Abalone point, Irvine Cove, Laguna Beach: an example of low-altitude
Aerial photography is used in cartography (particularly in
photogrammetric surveys, which are often the basis for topographic
maps), land-use planning, archaeology, movie
production, environmental studies, power line inspection,
surveillance, commercial advertising, conveyancing, and artistic
projects. An example of how aerial photography is used in the field of
archaeology is the mapping project done at the site Angkor Borei in
Cambodia from 1995–1996. Using aerial photography, archaeologists
were able to identify archaeological features, including 112 water
features (reservoirs, artificially constructed pools and natural
ponds) within the walled site of Angkor Borei. In the United
States, aerial photographs are used in many Phase I Environmental Site
Assessments for property analysis.
In the United States, except when necessary for take off and landing,
full-sized manned aircraft are prohibited from flying at altitudes
under 1000 feet over congested areas and not closer than 500 feet from
any person, vessel, vehicle or structure over non-congested areas.
Certain exceptions are allowed for helicopters, powered parachutes and
Radio-controlled model aircraft
A drone carrying a camera for aerial photography
Two drones that can be used to take aerial photographs
Advances in radio controlled models have made it possible for model
aircraft to conduct low-altitude aerial photography. This had
benefited real-estate advertising, where commercial and residential
properties are the photographic subject when in 2014 the US Federal
Communications Commission, issued an order banning the use of "Drones"
in any commercial application related to photographs for use in real
estate advertisements. This ban has since been lifted, as the FAA
Part 107 regulations for small UAS became effective on August 29,
Small scale model aircraft offer increased photographic access to
these previously restricted areas. Miniature vehicles do not replace
full size aircraft, as full size aircraft are capable of longer flight
times, higher altitudes, and greater equipment payloads. They are,
however, useful in any situation in which a full-scale aircraft would
be dangerous to operate. Examples would include the inspection of
transformers atop power transmission lines and slow, low-level flight
over agricultural fields, both of which can be accomplished by a
large-scale radio controlled helicopter. Professional-grade,
gyroscopically stabilized camera platforms are available for use under
such a model; a large model helicopter with a 26cc gasoline engine can
hoist a payload of approximately seven kilograms (15 lbs). In
addition to gyroscopically stabilized footage, the use of RC copters
as reliable aerial photography tools increased with the integration of
FPV (first-person-view) technology. Many radio-controlled aircraft are
now capable of utilizing Wi-Fi to stream live video from the
aircraft's camera back to the pilot's or pilot in command's (PIC)
ground station.
In Australia Civil Aviation Safety Regulation 101 (CASR 101)
allows for commercial use of radio control aircraft. Under these
regulations radio controlled unmanned aircraft for commercial are
referred to as Unmanned
Aircraft Systems (UAS), where as radio
controlled aircraft for recreational purposes are referred to as model
aircraft. Under CASR 101, businesses/persons operating radio
controlled aircraft commercially are required to hold an operator
certificate, just like manned aircraft operators. Pilots of radio
controlled aircraft operating commercially are also required to be
licensed by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Whilst a
small UAS and model aircraft may actually be identical, unlike model
aircraft, a UAS may enter controlled airspace with approval, and
operate within close proximity to an aerodrome.
Due to a number of illegal operators in Australia making false claims
of being approved, CASA maintains and publishes a list of approved UAS
operators. However, CASA has modified the regulations and from the
29th of September 2016 drones under 2 kg may be operated for
FAA regulations grounding all commercial RC model flights have
been upgraded to require formal
FAA certification before permission is
granted to fly at any altitude in the US.
June 25, 2014, The FAA, in ruling 14 CFR Part 91 [Docket No.
FAA–2014–0396] "Interpretation of the
Special Rule for Model
Aircraft", banned the commercial use of unmanned aircraft over U.S.
airspace. On September 26, 2014, the
FAA began granting the right
to use drones in aerial filmmaking. Operators are required to be
licensed pilots and must keep the drone in view at all times. Drones
cannot be used to film in areas where people might be put at risk.
FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 established, in Section
336, a special rule for model aircraft. In Section 336, Congress
confirmed the FAA’s long-standing position that model aircraft are
aircraft. Under the terms of the Act, a model aircraft is defined as
"an unmanned aircraft" that is "(1) capable of sustained flight in the
atmosphere; (2) flown within visual line of sight of the person
operating the aircraft; and (3) flown for hobby or recreational
Because anything capable of being viewed from a public space is
considered outside the realm of privacy in the United States, aerial
photography may legally document features and occurrences on private
FAA can pursue enforcement action against persons operating model
aircraft who endanger the safety of the national airspace system.
Public Law 112–95, section 336(b).
June 21, 2016, the
FAA released its summary of small unmanned aircraft
rules (Part 107). The rules established guidelines for small UAS
operators including operating only during the daytime, a 400 ft.
ceiling and pilots must keep the UAS in visual range.
April 7, 2017, the
FAA announced special security instructions under
14 CFR § 99.7. Effective April 14, 2017, all UAS flights within 400
feet of the lateral boundaries of U.S. military installations are
prohibited unless a special permit is secured from the base and/or the
Aerial photography in the UK has tight regulations as to where a drone
is able to fly.
Photography on Light aircraft under 20 kg. Basic Rules for
non commercial flying Of a SUA (Small Unmanned Aircraft).
Article 241 Endangering safety of any person or property. A person
must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to
endanger any person or property.
Article 94 small unmanned aircraft 1. A person must not cause or
permit any article or animal (whether or not attached to a parachute)
to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to endanger persons
2. The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the
aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
3. The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain
direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor
its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles,
vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.
4. The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft which has a mass
of more than 7 kg excluding its fuel but including any articles
or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the
commencement of its flight, must not fly the aircraft: 4.1 In Class A,
C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air
traffic control unit has been obtained; 4.2 Within an aerodrome
traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic
control unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless the permission of any
such air traffic control unit has been obtained; 4.3 At a height of
more than 400 feet above the surface
5. The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly the
aircraft for the purposes of commercial operations except in
accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.
Article 95 small unmanned surveillance aircraft 1. You Must not fly
your aircraft over or within 150 metres of any congested Area. (This
is quite vague, err on the side of caution if an accident did happen,
it’s the authorities view against you).
2. Over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more
than 1,000 persons.
3. Within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not
under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft.
4. Within 50 metres of any person, during take-off or landing, a small
unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of
any person. This does not apply to the person in charge of the small
unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the
person in charge of the aircraft.
Model aircraft with a mass of more than 20 kg are termed ‘Large
Model Aircraft’ – within the UK, large model aircraft may only be
flown in accordance with an Exemption from the ANO, which must be
issued by the CAA.
Dronesafe is a website Developed to help your flying stay safe and
legal in the UK in conjunction with NATS (National Air Traffic
Services) Look at the Dronesafe website for more information.
Full details on the process to be followed for Large Model Aircraft
can be found in CAP 658 on the CAA website
Aerial Work on larger manned aircraft can be found here CAA
Commercial Permissions Information  </ref>
Oblique Aerial Photo
Photographs taken at an angle are called oblique photographs. If they
are taken from a low angle relative to the earth's surface, they are
called low oblique and photographs taken from a high angle are called
high or steep oblique.
An aerial photographer prepares continuous oblique shooting in a
Vertical Orientation Aerial Photo
Vertical photographs are taken straight down. They are mainly used
in photogrammetry and image interpretation. Pictures that will be used
in photogrammetry are traditionally taken with special large format
cameras with calibrated and documented geometric properties.
Aerial photographs are often combined. Depending on their purpose it
can be done in several ways, of which a few are listed below.
Panoramas can be made by stitching several photographs taken in
different angles from one spot (e.g. with a hand held camera) or from
different spots at the same angle (e.g. from a plane).
Stereo photography techniques
Stereo photography techniques allow for the creation of 3D-images from
several photographs of the same area taken from different spots.
In pictometry five rigidly mounted cameras provide one vertical and
four low oblique pictures that can be used together.
In some digital cameras for aerial photogrammetry images from several
imaging elements, sometimes with separate lenses, are geometrically
corrected and combined to one image in the camera.
Vertical photographs are often used to create orthophotos,
alternatively known as orthophotomaps, photographs which have been
geometrically "corrected" so as to be usable as a map. In other words,
an orthophoto is a simulation of a photograph taken from an infinite
distance, looking straight down to nadir. Perspective must obviously
be removed, but variations in terrain should also be corrected for.
Multiple geometric transformations are applied to the image, depending
on the perspective and terrain corrections required on a particular
part of the image.
Orthophotos are commonly used in geographic information systems, such
as are used by mapping agencies (e.g. Ordnance Survey) to create maps.
Once the images have been aligned, or "registered", with known
real-world coordinates, they can be widely deployed.
Large sets of orthophotos, typically derived from multiple sources and
divided into "tiles" (each typically 256 x 256 pixels in size), are
widely used in online map systems such as Google Maps. OpenStreetMap
offers the use of similar orthophotos for deriving new map data.
Google Earth overlays orthophotos or satellite imagery onto a digital
elevation model to simulate 3D landscapes.
The Cliffs of Moher, filmed with a drone (2014)
With advancements in video technology, aerial video is becoming more
popular. Orthogonal video is shot from aircraft mapping pipelines,
crop fields, and other points of interest. Using GPS, video may be
embedded with meta data and later synced with a video mapping program.
This "Spatial Multimedia" is the timely union of digital media
including still photography, motion video, stereo, panoramic imagery
sets, immersive media constructs, audio, and other data with location
and date-time information from the GPS and other location designs.
Aerial videos are emerging Spatial Multimedia which can be used for
scene understanding and object tracking. The input video is captured
by low flying aerial platforms and typically consists of strong
parallax from non-ground-plane structures. The integration of digital
video, global positioning systems (GPS) and automated image processing
will improve the accuracy and cost-effectiveness of data collection
and reduction. Several different aerial platforms are under
investigation for the data collection.
Aerial landscape art
Aerial photographers category
Aerofilms Ltd., the first commercial aerial photography company in the
UK, founded in 1919
Airborne Real-time Cueing Hyperspectral Enhanced Reconnaissance
Battle of Neuve Chapelle
Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 14th Duke of Hamilton
Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 14th Duke of Hamilton 1932 photo flight over
English Heritage Archive
English Heritage Archive the public archive of English Heritage, who
hold one of the largest collections of aerial photographs of England
Fairchild K-20 A WWII era aerial camera
Federal Aviation Regulations
Harvey Lloyd (photographer)
Kite aerial photography
Oracle model photographic rocket
Unmanned aerial vehicle
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