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Aerial photography has evolved from mapping to assist in early military planning to an established investment option for a multitude of industries, including the commercial real estate industry and construction sector. Broader awareness of the benefits of aerial photography, especially with regards to land use and land cover analyses has accelerated adoption of the photographic process.
Aerial photographs are images of the land taken from an elevated/direct-down position. The camera is usually mounted, or hand held on a fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs or drones). Essentially, aerials are used to provide a realistic view or assessment of assets. They cover vast areas with one single frame. The amount of information captured by one aerial has made them an extremely powerful planning, marketing, presentation, and legal tool.
In fact, according to the United States’ National Association of Realtors survey, properties sell up to 60 percent faster when marketed with high quality real estate photographs.
However, it was a long process in getting to its current state of usability and reliability. The process has been revised and refined numerous times by varying parties. Here we will examine the evolution of aerial photography and the great contributors who helped perfect this unmatched process.
Aerial photography: looking backwards
Photographer Gaspar Felix Tournachon captured the first aerial photograph in the late 19th century from a balloon tethered over the Bievre Valley in Paris.
His patented technique is now known as oblique photography – photos taken at an angle neither horizontal nor perpendicular to the area being photographed. The technique was first used to compile maps – an alternative to the very time consuming, ground surveying techniques used by 19th century national mapping organizations. His efforts were intended to assist the French Military by preparing maps from aerial photos to help the army’s campaign in Italy. However, his initial work was apparently destroyed. As a result, the oldest preserved aerial is credited to James Wallace Black taken in 1860, which featured portions of the city of Boston.
By 1879, George Eastman, the founder of Kodak invented rolled paper film which improved the sharpness and clarity of aerial photographs, followed by the creation of the Brownie in 1888. The Brownie was a cardboard box camera that introduced the concept of the snapshot. The camera made photography affordable for everyone. Together, these inventions revolutionized the photography industry and methods for capturing aerial photos.
Around 1887, the German military started experimenting with aerial photographs to measure landmasses and landscaping features. Continued efforts were made in 1903 by militaries to improve their intelligence gathering capabilities.
In the late 1880s, more and more individuals began experimenting with alternative platforms to the hot air balloon. In 1889, M. Arthur Batut took the first aerial photograph from a kite flying above Labruguiere France. He mounted a camera to the middle of a kite and controlled the release time of the shutter using a rubber band-driven device and slow burning fuse that was lit when the kite was launched. He later took aerial footage of his house, capturing the intricate details of the property and providing a never-before seen angle of housing. Batut’s work can easily be attributed to the current trends in real estate photography.
Years later, George R. Lawrence used a similar process to photograph the destruction caused by the 1906 Earthquake that resulted in 498 deaths in San Francisco. He used between 9 and 17 large kites to lift his 49 lb. camera.
Around the same time, photographer Julius Neubranner designed and patented a breast-mounted aerial camera for the Bavarian Pigeon Corps. The pigeons would transport messages and carry the 70-gram camera along various flight paths, taking automatic exposures at 30-second intervals.
However, the camera platform continued to be improved upon by other great innovators. Alfred Nobel (Nobel prize fame) was one of them, inventing the first rocket-carrying camera. The camera was capable of taking images 300 feet above land and contributed greatly to military surveillance efforts. However, this offered a very limited field of view.
Alfred Maul, a German industrialist and engineer saw an opportunity to further improve upon the platform and expanded the military’s applications of aerial photography through the development of the camera rocket. Compressed air was used to propel the rocket up 2,600 feet, where the camera would then eject and parachute back to earth taking snapshots along its decent. The invention helped capture the North German landscape, as well as provided recon of a German firing range.
However, the height limits of these camera platforms made it difficult to see certain elements of the landscape on the ground. Important ground features continued to be missed, until 1909, when Wilbur Wright used a motion picture camera to capture the first aerial image from an airplane, flying above Centocelli, Italy. The details on the prints were unrivaled and subsequently opened the doors to many applications, including military intelligence gathering during World War I.
Aerial photography: flashing forward
Since its inception, aerial photography has moved from reactive to proactive enterprise planning. Aerial photos are no longer strictly used to capture progress and completed work; additionally, architects and real estate developers are increasingly using aerial photographs during development and pre-construction phases.
Today’s camera platforms include fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters and consumer grade drones, which are rapidly growing in popularity.
Aerial photographs offer a realistic reflection of project build outs, enabling teams to excel at planning, pricing, and navigating exposed roadblocks. The images allow developers to see everything, including small elevation differences that can become more significant in a wider context.
The stunning panoramic imagery also raises the level of marketing sophistication and due diligence needed to influence the financial decision-making process. The varying perspectives provided by aerial photography help emphasize different view corridors, distinct building levels and other project highlights for successfully selling developments to stakeholders. From a bird’s eye view, developers can truly expose the real value that can be derived from a project’s views, as well as convey to stakeholders the project’s real world visual context for buy in.
Time is money in construction and aerial photos help simplify and quicken consensus in the decision-making process. Aerial photographs streamline the complex nature of the B2B decision-making unit through striking, high-definition realism and immediately accessible presentations.
Compelling visuals help accelerate buying decisions. According to LifeLearn, when people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10 percent of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same info, people retained 65 percent of the information three days later.
Using aerial photographs will help you stimulate conversations, accelerate comprehension, build a case for change, demonstrate business value and drive deals to the closing table.
When compared to renderings, aerial photographs strengthen confidence in decision-making processes because they provide much more convincing and dynamic views of a study area. The photorealism removes buyer uncertainty and helps end users immediately realize the full potential of the envisioned project.
Whether you are trying to help your buyers visualize the case for taking action, communicate the full value of your solution or make your message go viral within a decision team, aerial view photography can help you achieve these objectives. The applications are endless. And, with each passing day, the process is being refined, opening up new opportunities across all areas of industry.
Aerial photography offers an unmatched communicative strength and today’s businesses have an amazing opportunity to redefine the marketing world.
Precision aerial photography is the latest tool for collecting point-in-time visual records of construction projects and real estate developments. Thorough