The History of Pigeon Camera Photography

The History of Pigeon Camera Photography
October 03, 2012

Pigeon photography is an aerial photography technique invented in 1907 by the German apothecary Julius Neubronner, who also used pigeons to deliver medications. A homing pigeon was fitted with an aluminium breast harness to which a lightweight time-delayed miniature camera could be attached.

Initially, the military potential of pigeon photography for aerial reconnaissance appeared attractive. Battlefield tests in the First World War provided encouraging results, but the ancillary technology of mobile dovecotes for messenger pigeons had the greatest impact. Owing to the rapid perfection of aviation during the war, military interest in pigeon photography faded and Neubronner abandoned his experiments.

Julius Neubronner (1914):

To take an aerial photograph, Neubronner carried a pigeon to a location up to about 100 kilometres (60 mi) from its home, where it was equipped with a camera and released. The bird, keen to be relieved of its burden, would typically fly home on a direct route, at a height of 50 to 100 metres (160 to 330 ft). A pneumatic system in the camera controlled the time delay before a photograph was taken. To accommodate the burdened pigeon, the dovecote (the structure that houses pigeons or doves) had a spacious, elastic landing board and a large entry hole.


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