Aerial photography is the taking of photographs of the ground from an elevated position. The term usually refers to images in which the camera is not supported by a ground-based structure. Cameras may be hand held or mounted, and photographs may be taken by a photographer, triggered remotely or triggered automatically. Platforms for aerial photography include fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, balloons, blimps and dirigibles, rockets, kites, poles and parachutes. Aerial photography should not be confused with Air-to-Air Photography, when aircraft serve both as a photo platform and subject.
Aerial photography was first practiced by the French photographer and balloonist Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known as "Nadar", in 1858 over Paris, France.
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. The use of aerial photography for military purposes was expanded during World War I by many others aviators such as Fred Zinn. One of the first notable battles was that of Neuve Chapelle.
With the advent of inexpensive digital cameras, many people now take candid photographs from commercial aircraft and increasingly from general aviation aircraft on private pleasure flights.
Uses of imagery
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, surveillance, commercial advertising, conveyancing, and artistic projects. In the United States, aerial photographs are used in many Phase I Environmental Site Assessments for property analysis. Aerial photos are often processed using GIS software.
Advances in radio controlled models has made it possible for model aircraft to conduct low-altitude aerial photography. This has benefited real-estate advertising, where commercial and residential properties are the photographic subject. Full-size, manned aircraft are prohibited from low flights above populated locations. 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).
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 property.
- History of Aerial Photography, Professional Aerial Photographers Association website. Accessed 11 May 2010.
- US Coast and Geodetic Survey, Aerial Camera History, Accessed 11 May 2010.
- Federal Aviation Regulations, Wikipedia contributors, Accessed 11 May 2010.
- California v. Ciraolo, Wikipedia contributors, Accessed 11 May 2010.