Early Aerial Spy Photos – How Did They Get Them?

The Wright Brothers famous first powered flight at Kitty Hawk happened on December 17, 1903. Lasting for only 12 seconds and covering a distance of only 120 feet, that historic flight was brief — and anything but covert.

In order to take aerial photographs previous to powered flight, photographers would use hot-air balloons, kites, and even rockets. It wasn’t until 1909 before the Wright Brothers produced the world’s first military airplane, but one method had already proven stealthy enough that it could be used for early military spy photos.

How then could shots like these be taken virtually undetected?



That same year as the Wright Brothers’ first flight,  Julius Neubranner had designed a tiny breast-mounted camera for carrier pigeons. “The camera could be set to take automatic exposures at 30-second intervals as the pigeon flew along.”


How cool is that?

Via Odd Stuff Magazine and PAPA International

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct smaller.com; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.

3 Comments on "Early Aerial Spy Photos – How Did They Get Them?"

  1. Animals don’t get enough credit for all the contributions they’ve made during times of war =/

    • Agreed! I knew that pigeons had carried messages, but I didn’t realize that they had actually taken spy photos until I stumbled across these articles.

      I also saw something about a horse during the Korean War that was given the rank of Staff Sergeant for its service. Kind of cool, too. =)

  2. Those were great articles!

    But I didn’t know about the dog suicide bombers. =(

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