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April-May: Directions LIVE roadshow;
May 2015: Trimble UC - Transform
2015; Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.
4-5 May 2015: ANZ Emergency &
Disaster Management Conference;
Gold Coast, Qld. www.anzdmc.com.au.
11-15 May 2015: 36th International
Symposium on Remote Sensing of
Environment (ISRSE); Berlin, Germany.
12-14 May: Australian ITS Summit
and National Electronic Tolling
Forum; Melbourne, Vic.
27-28 May 2015: GeoBusiness 2015;
London, UK. http://geobusinessshow.com.
28 June ñ 1 July 2015: Pivotal
International Executive Summit;
Brisbane, Qld. http://pivotal2015.org.
14-16 July 2015: IGNSS 2015; Gold
Coast, Qld. http://ignss.org.
12-14 August 2015: 2015 AIMS
Conference; Perth, WA. www.
19 August 2015: GeoNext 2015/SSSI
Vic. Spatial Summit; Melbourne, Vic.
28 September - 3 October: ISPRS
Geospatial Week; Montpellier, France.
24-27 November 2015: Pacific
Islands GIS\RS User Conference;
Suva, Fiji. http://picgisrs.appspot.com.
Before satellites, aeroplanes and UAV
became the standard platforms for
aerial imagery, lesser known means
were explored, including hot-air balloons,
kites, rockets and even animals. The above
photograph, taken in 1907, depicts the re-
sult of German apothecary Dr Julius Neu-
bronner's invention: pigeon photography.
This photograph of the Schlosshotel
Kronberg near Frankfurt in Germany,
became famous across Europe because of
the accidental inclusion of the photogra-
pher's wingtips on each side of the frame.
Dr Neubronner's method consisted of
a custom-designed camera and harness,
mounted upon specially trained homing
pigeons. The images were pneumatically
triggered by an air sac within the device
that filled as the pigeons moved through
the air, allowing for the appropriate
photo capture delay.
In 1907, Dr Neubronner applied for a
patent for his method, entitled "Method
of and Means for Taking Photographs
of Landscapes from Above." However,
the German Patent Office considered the
method to be impossible and the pat-
ent was rejected on the basis that it was
beyond the carrying capacity of pigeons. In
1908, after presenting authenticated photo-
graphs taken using his method, the Patent
Office approved Neubronner's patent.
The pigeons themselves were prepared
in advance of the campaigns by being
regularly fitted with timber models that
replicated the size and weight of the
cameras. To take a photograph, a pigeon
was fitted with the device and released
up to 100km from its home. The pigeon
would then travel in a direct route toward
its dovecote, or pigeon coop, directly over
any subject areas. Dr Neubronner was able
to customise routes by using a carriage-
mounted mobile dovecote, which was also
fitted with a darkroom for processing the
images. Pigeons were trained to return
to wherever the dovecote had last been
located, allowing for custom flight paths,
public exhibitions and military use.
The technology became widely known
through the 1909 International Photo-
graphic Exhibition in Dresden, where spec-
tators could witness the pigeons returning
to the dovecote, where they could purchase
the resulting images as postcards. Dr
Neubronner's photographs won prizes in
Dresden and at the Paris Air Show.
Initial testing was carried out using a
Ticka watch camera, until Dr Neubron-
ner designed and created a number of
cameras himself. The system described in
his patent was a pneumatically-triggered
'double camera' with two lenses pointing
in opposite directions that resulted in two
oblique photographs. Dr Neubronner cre-
ated a range of different pigeon-mounted
cameras capable of customised exposure,
multiple exposures and panoramic im-
ages. Neubronner's final model weighed
slightly more than 40 grams and was
capable of taking twelve exposures.
The military applications were proven
in World War One, when Neubronner's
mobile dovecote was used for recon-
naissance at the Battle of Verdun and
the Battle of the Somme. Similar pigeon
photography methods were purportedly
used in World War Two by the German
and French forces, and later by the United
States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Additional images can be found at
Pigeon-based aerial photography
Photo: Deutsches Museum.
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