Balloons to Biplanes

The first chance to carry observers aloft came in the 18th century with the invention of the hot-air balloon. Then, with the advent of photography in the 19th century, came the first aerial photographs, taken by a French balloonist. At about the same time in the United States, Abraham Lincoln was commissioning the U.S. Army Balloon Corps to spy on Confederate troops.

As the 19th century closed, kites and pigeons were used to gather images from above. In 1908 Wilbur Wright and photographer L.P. Bonvillain captured the first photos from a plane. A year later Wright shot the first aerial motion pictures.

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