Back in 1907 Julius Neubronner designed a miniature camera that he mounted on homing pigeons. For a brief point in time this was a very unique and interesting form of aerial photography and remote sensing. The military was quite interested in this technology until airplanes became reliable. Eventually space technology was developed and for over 40 years satellites have been used to image the earth.
For the last decade or so unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, have been used to take high resolution images when and where users wish. While these have become cheaper and increasingly effective, they still are limited by battery life and operator training.
Now a team in Lima Peru has gone “back to the birds.” They have placed a GPS and video camera onto ten trained “homing” vultures and release them into the sky. The vultures head to the nearest illegal dump for a meal. When they return members of the environment ministry can use these data to locate these sites and take remedial action.
The project website at the end of this page has a dramatic video informing the residents of Lima on this work. Here is another link to the story: