History of Aerial Photography in Tasmania

Prior to 1945 (since the 1930s), there has been aerial photography undertaken in Tasmania. The areas covered were small and were done mainly by the Royal Australian Air Force or commercial entities from outside of the state.

Aerial photograph of Bellerive circa 1946

In 1945 a program of photographing the entire state from the air was commenced. The project extended over several years and in 1951 "full" coverage was achieved. This project was undertaken to improve the quality of the mapping that had existed and to enable the government of the day to properly record the cultural expansion in the state.

The air survey of the state has continued to this day although there have been a number of significant changes over time.

Over the years a succession of cameras have been utilised for the work.

Aerial photograph of Bellerive circa 2012

At first these were supplied by the contracted air survey company but in 1963 the government purchased a Wild RC8 camera and only contracted the aircraft and pilot.

The RC8 was replaced in 1971 by the Zeiss RMK which was utilised until 2010.

At the end of 2010 the Department's aerial camera was retired.

Unfortunately the 35-year-old equipment was no longer able to meet the demands of the modern world as far as imagery was concerned.

Operating the camera was also becoming more expensive as film and film processing costs increased and their availability diminished on top of the increasing aircraft hire and operation costs.

A further two years with film capture continued utilising Wild RC 20/30 cameras until the current arrangement commenced where contractors supply digitally captured imagery for Tasmania through the Tasmanian Imagery Program.

Archiving and Access

The aerial photography captured from 1945 onwards has created a large number of photographs many of which are stored on the original film negatives. The very early films, prior to 1951, unfortunately no longer exist as the films used back then were highly unstable and deteriorated badly to the extent they became a safety hazard. Consequently this photography only exists as photographic prints. Later films, although more durable and stable, can suffer from constant handling and with an increasing demand for historic photographs the films were starting to deteriorate.

In order to preserve the original film negatives and make the aerial photography more readily available to users, a scanning program was commenced in 2011. A Leica high resolution film scanner was purchased and a program of digitisation of the films was undertaken and completed in December 2017. Completed scans are stored on a secure server and are distributed to users to search and download with the Aerial Photo Viewer. The original films are now residing with the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office.

​See the Accessing and Obtaining Aerial Photography page ​on this site for more information on the Aerial Photo Viewer. 


Aerial Imagery

Program Leader - Topographic Data,
Land Tasmania,
Mobile: 0439 583 384