Aerial reconnaissance or air patrol is the designation of a reconnaissance operation for military or strategic purposes, which is carried out using air means, including from birds to manned or unmanned aircraft. This activity can respond to a wide variety of requirements, including: obtaining images for intelligence purposes, observing enemy troop maneuvers and spotting artillery. Information is collected by visual, photographic or recorded observations using mechanical or electronic sensors.
After the French Revolution, there was a great interest in the use of balloons to observe enemy maneuvers and they appointed scientist Joseph Coutelle to conduct studies in this direction, using the L'Entreprenant balloon, making it the first military reconnaissance aircraft. The balloon was first used in the conflict with Austria of 1794, where they gained information at the Battle of Fleurus.
After the invention of photography, early aerial photographs were taken from manned and unmanned balloons, starting in the 1860s, and from kites from the 1880s onwards. An example was the photographs taken with kites by Arthur Batut of the city of Labruguière from 1889. In the early 20th century, inventor Julius Neubronner experimented with "photographs with doves", where doves carried miniaturized cameras with timers. In 1891 , Ludwig Rahrmann patented a process for attaching a camera to a large artillery or rocket projectile, and this inspired Alfred Maul to develop his Maul Camera Rocket from 1903. In 1896 Alfred Nobel had already built the first camera rocket, who took pictures of Swedish landscapes during his flights. Maul improved his camera rocket and the Austrian army even tested it in the Balkan Wars between 1912 and 1913, but at that time, cameras carried by planes produced better results. Italian Air Force, during the Italo-Turkish War between 1911 and 1912. On October 23, 1911, an Italian pilot over Turkish lines in Libya to carry out the first aerial reconnaissance mission, and on November 1, 1911, the first Aerial bomb was dropped on Turkish troops in Libya.
On October 16, 1912, a Bulgarian Albatros aircraft was used to perform the first aerial reconnaissance mission in Europe under combat conditions, against Turkish lines in the Balkan Peninsula, during the Balkan Wars (1912-1913).
During World War I
The use of aerial photography quickly matured during World War I. Frederick Charles Victor Laws began its use in 1912 with RAF 1 Squadron beginning experiments with aerial photography using the British airship Beta. He found that photographs taken at 60% overlap could be used to create a stereoscopic effect allowing for depth perception, which could improve the quality of information provided by aerial photographs for cartography and intelligence. The airships were eventually relocated to the Royal Navy, so Laws created the first aerial reconnaissance unit using aircraft, which became RAF 3 Squadron.
Germany was one of the first countries to adopt the use of cameras for aerial reconnaissance, opting for a Goerz in 1913. French military aviation started the war using Bleriot planes in various observation squadrons, equipped with cameras for reconnaissance. The French army developed procedures to get the photos into the hands of commanders in record time.
Royal Flying Corps pilots began using cameras to record their observations as early as 1914 and as early as the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and