Before seemingly everyone and their mother had a drone, seeing aerial shots of the world below was a bit more of a rarity. Mainly used for military and research purposes throughout the 1900s, the intriguing history of aerial photography – which dates back to 1858, pulled off with hot air balloons in France! – is now available to explore in a new tool from Historic England. The Aerial Photo Explorer tool makes over 400,000 aerial photographs from the last 100 years available to view online for the first time, allowing users to see the changing face of the UK from a new perspective, dive into the history around the photography technique, and spot a bizarre array of “cropmarks”.
Visitors to the online tool can search for a city or location and see results of corresponding aerial photographs shot in the area, including flight date stamps; the tool covers nearly 30 per cent of England’s landmass. Images discoverable in the archive include: shots of blimps, the remains of ancient archaeology, World War II anti-invasion measures, bomb damage, the building and demolition of nuclear power stations, war-time adaptations (such as shots of allotments in Greenwich Park in 1946) and, very interestingly, “‘cropmarks’ showing hidden, archaeology beneath the surface”, adds the release from Historic England. The images also allow you to see the gradual development of the medium over the century.