The ability of the pilot to take the modern high-powered plane over any chosen point at any desired altitude in almost any condition of wind or weather gives to the plane an essential advantage over the photographic kites and balloons of pre-war days. There are, however, certain disadvantages in the use of the plane which must be overcome in the design of the photographic apparatus and in the method of its use. Some few of these disadvantages are inherent in the plane itself; for instance, the necessity for high speed in order to remain in the air, and the vibration due to the constantly running engine. Others are peculiar to war conditions, and their elimination in planes for peacetime photography will give great opportunities for the development of aerial photography as a science.
Chief among the war-time limitations is that of economy of space and weight. A war plane must carry a certain equipment of guns, radio-telegraphic apparatus and other instruments, all of which must be readily accessible. Many planes have duplicate controls in the rear cockpit to enable the observer to bring the plane to earth in case of accident to the pilot. Armament and controls demand space which must be subtracted from quarters already cramped, so that in most designs of planes the photographic outfit must be accommodated in locations and spaces wretchedly inadequate for it. Economy in weight is pushed to the last extreme, for every ounce saved means increased ceiling and radius of action, a greater bombing load, more ammunition, or fuel for a longer flight. Hence comes the constant pressure to limit the weight of photographic and other apparatus, even though the tasks required of the camera constantly call for larger rather than smaller equipment.
To another military necessity is due in great measure the forced development of aerial photographic apparatus in the direction of automatic operation. The practice of entrusting the actual taking of the pictures to observers with no photographic knowledge, whose function was merely to "press the button" at the proper time, necessitated cameras as simple in operation as possible. The multiplicity of tasks assigned to the observer, and in particular the ever vital one of watching for enemy aircraft, made the development of largely or wholly automatic cameras the war-time ideal of all aerial photographic services. Whether the freeing of the observer from other tasks will relegate the necessarily complex and expensive automatic camera to strictly military use remains to be seen.