November 21, 2023

Leonardo Technology Brings Beauty and Danger of Natural World to Life in Planet Earth III

A group of seals gathers to drive out a great white shark threatening their territory.

This remarkable opening scene launched the BBC’s new nature series, Planet Earth III, which uses unique thermal imaging technology forged in Leonardo’s Basildon and Southampton sites to capture wildlife in some of the world’s most dynamic and dangerous habitats.

The company’s engineers have built technology that allows BBC camera crews to observe wildlife in pitch-dark conditions, which is not visible to normal film cameras.

In the first episode of Planet Earth III, the Leonardo camera caught night-time images of thousands of roosting cormorants along the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, closely observed by a group of hungry young desert lions who hesitate in their pursuit, due to their dislike of getting their paws wet.

Namibia’s lions are protected due to their scarcity, and those filmed by the Leonardo cameras were among the first to be viewed along Namibia’s coastline for 40 years. Scenes such as these would not have been possible without thermal imaging technology, which captures images that are invisible to the human eye.

Direct feedback from the BBC camera crew has been used to hone the thermal imaging camera produced for their series over the years. These have included award-winning footage of leopards hunting in Mumbai, as part of Planet Earth II, the Seven Worlds, One Planet series, and Dynasties, where it captured a famous pride of lions in Kenya’s Masai Mara.

A touchscreen tablet was added to the back of the imager to control the focus and zoom functions, while a miniature video recorder was mounted on top, allowing the operator to work alone and cause minimal disruption to wildlife. The camera can reveal detailed images of wildlife, making it possible to capture previously unknown wildlife behavior and physiology.

Leonardo UK’s Sustainability spokesperson, Zevi Watmough, said: “Temperature increases and rising sea levels are affecting wildlife and natural habitats around the world. While many of us are already aware of these facts, you feel you understand the impact so much more when you see the images of the ways in which wildlife and the natural world are being transformed. We are proud to support the BBC’s pioneering series, which helps us all to appreciate and celebrate the wildlife that exists on our planet.” Learn more about how Leonardo's thermal imaging cameras are capturing wildlife in pitch-dark conditions, not visible to normal film cameras.