Its a robot...Yep that's right.
Before I got into the idea of flying up high and taking photos and movies I got myself a Gigapan EPIC-100.
You simply attach the Gigapan to a tripod, then attach your camera to the Gigapan, in my case a Canon G10.
You then set the upper left and lower right corners of your panorama and the EPIC works out how many photos your camera will need to take, hundreds or even thousands, and automatically organizes them into the correct rows and columns needed to capture your panorama. The robotic arm clicks away, capturing amazing detail in a short amount of time.
You then use the Gigapan stitching software to make cool images like these...