Brief History

Since ancient times, people have yearned to see the landscape as the birds do, and artists have depicted scenes of the Earth as they imagined from above. Early maps of major cities often were presented as bird's-eye views, showing streets, buildings, and indeed people from a perspective that only could be imagined by the artist. Good examples can be found in Frans Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum (Cologne, 1572-1617). Seventeenth-century artists such as Wenceslaus Hollar engraved remarkable urban panoramas that showed cities from an oblique bird's-eye view. The visual impact of such images is remarkably close to that of aerial photographs.

George Catlin was another leading practitioner of aerial vantages in the early 1800s (Fig. 1-4). Catlin adopted a documentary style of painting in order to represent natural and human conditions in realistic terms. By sheer force of their imagination and their technical mastery, Catlin and previous artists simulated the act of taking images from the air. It was not until the mid-1800s, however, that two innovations combined, namely manned flight and photochemical imagery, to make true aerial photography possible. Since then, photography and flight have developed in myriad ways leading to many manned and unmanned methods for observing the Earth from above (Fig. 1-5).

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