Incredible aerial photos of U.S. cities taken by world's first drone

2013-06-24 03:38:39 GMT2013-06-24 11:38:39(Beijing Time)  SINA.com
This picture of San Francisco in ruins after the 1906 earthquake that struck the city became an icon and made George R. Lawrence a fortune.(Photo:Agencies)This picture of San Francisco in ruins after the 1906 earthquake that struck the city became an icon and made George R. Lawrence a fortune.(Photo:Agencies)
George R. Lawrence pioneered the use of the Lawrence Captive Airship to take pictures from up to 2,000 feet above a city.(Photo:Agencies)George R. Lawrence pioneered the use of the Lawrence Captive Airship to take pictures from up to 2,000 feet above a city.(Photo:Agencies)
This is Reno, Nevada, near the turn of the 20th Century, seen from from 1,000 feet. The camera is looking northeast.(Photo:Agencies)This is Reno, Nevada, near the turn of the 20th Century, seen from from 1,000 feet. The camera is looking northeast.(Photo:Agencies)
Dozens of Lawrence's pictures survive in the archives of the Library of Congress, a tribute to what may be the first aerial drone pictures.(Photo:Agencies)Dozens of Lawrence's pictures survive in the archives of the Library of Congress, a tribute to what may be the first aerial drone pictures.(Photo:Agencies)
Industry: This is the Flax Twine Plant, part of International Harvester Company, in St Paul, Minnesota.(Photo:Agencies)Industry: This is the Flax Twine Plant, part of International Harvester Company, in St Paul, Minnesota.(Photo:Agencies)
In ruins: San Francisco's earthquake devastation can be seen from 600 feet above Folsom and Fifth streets.(Photo:Agencies)In ruins: San Francisco's earthquake devastation can be seen from 600 feet above Folsom and Fifth streets.(Photo:Agencies)
Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, can be seen on the shores of Lake Michigan in this 1907 picture.(Photo:Agencies)Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, can be seen on the shores of Lake Michigan in this 1907 picture.(Photo:Agencies)

Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, a pioneering photographer rigged what could be described as the world's first drone to capture incredible images of American cities from thousands of feet in the air.

George R. Lawrence used a system of kites outfitted with a 49-pound camera to show a bird's-eye view of San Francisco, Chicago and New York City - among other towns - in a way that they had never been seen before.

His 1906 pictures of earthquake-devastated San Francisco became world-famous and made him a rich man.

Lawrence offers a 2,000-foot view of the stock yards of Kansas City, the bustling neighborhoods of Brooklyn, New York, and the furnaces of steel mills and industrial plans in Chicago and Gary, Indiana.

The first aerial photographs were taken from a hot air balloon in 1858 - nearly 50 years before the first powered flight.

Lawrence tried using a balloon, too. In 1901, we was in a hot air balloon when the basket he was in detached from the balloon and sent him plummeting to the ground.

A mess of telephone and telegraphy wires luckily broke his fall, but Lawrence soon decided he needed another method to make pictures.

This led him to invent the Lawrence Captive Airship. The device used 17 Conyne kites, strung together by piano wire, to hoist the massive camera into the air.

The device was floated between 400 and 2,000 feet in the air before pictures were made.

Lawrence was then able to remotely take a picture by shooting an electrical current up to the camera.

His iconic photograph of San Francisco ravage by the 1906 earthquake earned him $15,000 - more than $380,000 in 2013 dollars.

(Agencies)

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