THE kite balloons which were built by von Parseval and von Sigsfeld in 1896 were introduced into the German Army to take the place of the spherical captive balloon. In spite of the rapid development in aireraft design, no particular improvement had been effected up to the outbreak of war either in design or in equipment. The interest in the observation balloon had waned with the appearance of the airship and the aeroplane, both of which occupied the attention of the Army and aircraft industry to a far greater extent. It was assumed that the observation balloon would soon be replaced by the aeroplane. In short: When war broke out the balloon was an obsolete means of observation and seemed likely to become extinct.
The personnel itself, composed almost entirely of volunteers and skilled mechanics, was well drilled and trained, and of excellent quality. The officers were recruited from every branch of the service— highly efficient officers, some of whom had been trained at the Staff College—and were finished by a one-year's course at the Airship Training School. In addition to that, twenty officers every year underwent a four months' course to qualify them as balloon observers with the Airship Defence Corps.