Photographer pigeons…

The first known aerial photographs were taken by Nadar in 1858 during a hot-air balloon flight. A novel idea in terms of taking photographs from the sky appeared about 40 years later: a small camera specifically designed to be carried by a pigeon.

Wilhelm Neubronner, a pharmacist from Kronberg in Germany, had carrier pigeons that brought him urgent prescriptions. His son Julius continued this practice. In order to verify the route taken by one of his pigeons, he designed a small device, which could be fitted to the bird’s chest using elastic straps. Patented in 1903, this camera took several snapshots on film that is 4 cm along each side using a delayed-action automatic trigger.

Around 1910, Julius Neubronner designed a second camera: the Doppel-Sport. It took a single panoramic image on a curved 3×8 cm negative with a rotating lens, activated by a delayed-action trigger.

In the 1930s, a camera adapting the Doppel-Sport to use 16 mm movie film was designed by Christian Adrian Michel, the Swiss owner of a watchmaking parts factory in Aargau. The camera, which was never a commercial success, was equipped with a timing mechanism, which ensured the delay of the shot being taken, the moving of the film and the interval between photographs.


Prototype of the carrier pigeon device designed by Christian Adrian Michel in Walde, Switzerland, circa 1935.