Dr Julius Neubronner's pigeon camera : Amazing aerial photos from 1908 taken by fitting mini cameras to PIGEONS
- Cameras were attached to pigeons using a harness and breastplate armour
- Pigeons were trained to carry weight of cameras using wooden models
By Daily Mail Reporter
PUBLISHED: 09:38 EST, 15 January 2013 | UPDATED: 12:14 EST, 15 January 2013
Long before satellites beamed aerial imagery back to Earth and Google Street View let us explore the world from the comfort of our living rooms, a German doctor came up with a slightly lower tech way to take aerial pictures - with a mini camera strapped to a pigeon.
In 1908, Dr Julius Neubronner patented the 'pigeon-cam', which could be activated by a timing mechanism.
The invention brought Dr Neubronner worldwide fame after he presented it at international expositions in Dresden, Frankfurt and Paris in 1909 and 1911.
Pigeons were fitted with mini Ticka watch cameras in 1908 by Dr Julius Neubronner to take aerial photos
This aerial shot was taken as one of Dr Neubronner's pigeons flew over the Schlosshotel Kronberg, in the Taunus mountain range of Hesse, Germany
As the pigeons flew over Germany, the camera used a pneumatic system that controlled the time delay before each shot was taken
HOW THE PIGEON CAMERA WORKS
To take an aerial photo, Dr Neubronner carried a pigeon to a location up to about 60 miles (100km) 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 160 to 330ft (50 to 100metres).
A pneumatic system in the camera controlled the time delay before a photograph was taken.
To accommodate the burdened pigeon, the dovecote had a spacious, elastic landing board and a large entry hole.
Spectators in Dresden could watch the arrival of the camera-equipped carrier pigeons, and the photos were developed and turned into postcards which could be purchased.
In 1903, Dr Neubronner, an apothecary from the town of Kronberg near Frankfurt, started receiving prescriptions from a sanatorium in nearby Falkenstein using pigeon post.
The pigeon post was discontinued after three years when the sanatorium was closed.
He delivered urgent medications up to 75g (2.6oz) by the same method, and positioned some of his pigeons with his wholesaler in Frankfurt to profit from faster deliveries himself.
When one of his pigeons lost its orientation in fog and mysteriously arrived, well-fed, four weeks late, Dr Neubronner was inspired with the playful idea of equipping his pigeons with automatic cameras to trace their paths.
This thought led him to merge his two
hobbies into a new 'double sport' combining carrier pigeon fancying with
He later learned that his pigeon had been in the custody of a restaurant chef in Wiesbaden.
Neubronner's mini cameras weighed around 75g and were fitted to pigeons using a harness and a metal breastplate
Dr Neubronner originally used carrier pigeons to ship medication across Germany. He later realised that if the birds could carry drugs, they could carry the weight of a mini camera
Neubronner used a Ticka watch camera to take his aerial photos. He tested the camera on a train and while riding a sled before fitting it to his pigeons
After successfully testing a Ticka watch camera on a train and while riding a sled, Dr Neubronner began the development of a light miniature camera that could be fitted to a pigeon's breast by means of a harness and an aluminum cuirass - a single plate of metal armor designed to protect the wearer's chest.
Using wooden camera models weighing 30 to 75g (1.1 to 2.6oz), the pigeons were carefully trained for their load.
According to the doctor, there were a dozen different models of his camera.
In 1907 he had sufficient success to apply for a patent.
Initially his invention 'Method of and Means for Taking Photographs of Landscapes from Above' was rejected by the German patent office as impossible but after presentation of authenticated photographs the patent was granted in December 1908.
The rejection was based on a misconception about the carrying capacity of domestic pigeons.
The technology became widely known through his participation in the 1909 International Photographic Exhibition in Dresden, and the 1909 International Aviation Exhibition in Frankfurt.
Dr Neubronner's photographs won prizes in Dresden as well as at the 1910 and 1911 Paris Air Shows.
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