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"There's a poetry in the materials we use to construct our world of artifacts; it speaks of our long history as a technological species."
- William Gibson

Raytron Apparatus  
  A device for aerial surveillance; the image was transmitted back to the user.  

As far as I know, the first instance of aerial military surveillance resulting in improved firing accuracy of distant weapons occured on September 24, 1861. A military balloon ascended to more than 1,000 feet near Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, and began telegraphing intelligence on the Confederate troops located at Falls Church, Virginia, three miles away. Union guns were thus aimed and fired accurately at the Confederate troops without actually being able to see them.

But there must be a better way.

Then Sonya prepared an image-finder. She connected the batteries, the projector, and the grid of glowing wires.

Alice and Dolores held the grid between them. Sonya fired the small projectile. It sailed off, a whirling pink ball. It was in reality a small, flat disk with a lenslike eye and a whirling, pink, glowing armature on top.

Over a radius of several miles Sonya's raytron apparatus could direct its flight, and back over the invisible connecting ray came an image of all that the lens eye saw.

The pink ball of light sailed ahead and soon was lost to view. The gird of wires which Alice and Dolores held glowed pink...

Upon it, etched in black, was a moving scene: mountains, crags, valleys, moving in slow panorama, valleys all pale and empty in the starlight.

Alice cried, "Sonya... lights! We see them now!"

Sonya's apparatus marked the position of the pink ball.

From Beyond the Stars, by Ray Cummings.
Published by Ace in 1928
Additional resources -

Even more interesting, it appears that the device also allowed the user to pinpoint the position on the grid, as well as showing the surveillance video.

Compare this to the copseyes from Larry Niven's 1972 story Cloak of Anarchy.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Beyond the Stars
  More Ideas and Technology by Ray Cummings
  Tech news articles related to Beyond the Stars
  Tech news articles related to works by Ray Cummings

Raytron Apparatus-related news articles:
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  - First Person Video Flying Parrot Bebop Drone Video
  - DARPA Video Highlights Fast Lightweight Autonomy Drones

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Cyborg DragonflEye At Your Command

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