Alfred Maul

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Alfred Maul (1870 - 1942) was a German engineer who could be thought of as the father of aerial reconnaissance. Maul, who owned a machine works, experimented from 1900 with small solid-propellant sounding rockets.[1]


Although people had long been experimenting with rockets, hardly anyone had used them in a practical application. It was Alfred Maul, an industrialist and engineer from the Kingdom of Saxony, that thought of, and implemented, the idea of taking photographs of the land with a rocket-attached camera. He was inspired by Ludwig Rahrmann, who in 1891 patented a means of attaching a camera to a large calibre artillery projectile or rocket.[1] Previously, aerial photographs had been taken from balloons and kites, and in 1896 or 1897 by Alfred Nobel's rocket, from a small rocket at 100 metres altitude.[2][3][4] In 1903 Julius Neubronner's pigeons were used to take aerial photos but found to be too unreliable.[5]

Camera rocket development[edit]

In 1903 Alfred Maul patented his Maul Camera Rocket.[6]

The camera would be launched into the air with a black powder rocket. When the rocket had reached an altitude of about 600 to 800 metres a few seconds later, its top would spring open and the camera would descend on a parachute. A timer would trigger the taking of the photograph.[1]

In 1904 Maul managed to image the local landscape from 600 metre altitude.[3]

From the beginning a military use for this technique was in mind. So, on 22 August 1906 a secret demonstration occurred before military observers at the Glauschnitz firing range.

Maul developed his camera rocket further for the purpose of military reconnaissance. He began attaching gyroscopic-stabilised plate cameras in 1907.[1][6]

In 1912 his rocket cameras were using a 20 by 25 centimetre photographic plate and gyroscopic steering to ensure stable flight and sharper images.[7] The rocket massed 41 kilograms.[1][6]

Aeroplanes take over[edit]

Maul's rockets achieved no military significance because conventional aeroplanes during World War I succeeded in the role of aerial reconnaissance.[6] The Deutsches Museum in Munich displays a Maul-built rocket.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Editors of German Wikipedia
  2. ^ "Cameras in Model Rockets: A Short History". 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  3. ^ a b Nicholas M. Short, Sr. "History of Remote Sensing: In the Beginning; Launch Vehicles". Archived from the original on 30 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  4. ^ Nicholas M. Short, Sr. "Remote Sensing Tutorial Overview". Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-13.  (photographs by Alfred Nobel and the Bavarian pigeon fleet)
  5. ^ "The History of Aerial Photography". Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  6. ^ a b c d Mark Wade. "Maul Camera Rocket". Archived from the original on 7 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-13.  (summary and photo)
  7. ^ David Darling. "Maul, Alfred (1864-1941)". Retrieved 2009-03-13. 


  • Editors of German Wikipedia. [1] Retrieved 2009-03-13

External links[edit]

Media related to Alfred Maul at Wikimedia Commons