Aerial photography is about taking photographs of the ground from a platform above. Platforms for aerial photography include fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, drones, balloons, rockets and kites among others. If a skydiver is taking pictures straight down toward their landing site, then perhaps that would be considered aerial photography without a platform. If they’re taking pictures of their fellow jumpers that would be some kind of air-to-air photography.
Aerial photography has a long history starting with devices such as kites and balloons. It wasn’t long before aerial photography was used in war to gain information and advantage on the battlefield and to conduct surveillance of enemy strength, factories, bridges and other key assets. Today that extends to countries launching satellites that remain in orbit for a long time and that routinely shoot stills and video of the facilities of other countries.
There are two related and pervasive technological developments that have rapidly moved to the forefront of aerial photography in recent years. The first is UAVs that can fly long and dangerous surveillance missions without a human pilot onboard. The second is drones. We are currently in a period where drone technology is still unfolding and is redefining itself as it develops. Low end drones require 100 percent operator guidance through radio control although they can be used in photography. More advanced drone models can perform independent, programmed behaviors that free the operator to engage in other activities while being photographed. Drone technology is being used to photograph real estate and in many other fields. Sometimes drones replace the more traditional aerial platforms but in other cases drones perform tasks that are helpful but that were previously not economical by other methods of aerial photography. Drones have provided the average consumer access to professional quality aerial photography.