Leonardo technology brings the beauty and danger of the natural world to life on Planet Earth III

A group of seals gather to drive out a great white shark that threatens their territory.

This was the remarkable opening scene that launched the BBC’s new nature series, Planet Earth III, which uses unique thermal imaging technology forged at 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 enables BBC camera crews to observe wildlife in pitch-dark conditions that are not visible to normal film cameras.

In the first section of Planet Earth IIIthe Leonardo camera captured nighttime images of thousands of angry cormorants along Namibia’s skeleton coast, closely watched by a group of hungry young desert lions who hesitate in their hunt because of their reluctance to get their paws wet.

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

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

A touchscreen tablet was added to the back of the imaging camera 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 disturbance to wildlife. The camera has the ability to reveal detailed images of wildlife, making it possible to capture previously unknown wildlife behavior and physiology.

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Leonardo UK’s Sustainability Spokesperson, Zevi Watmough, said: “Temperature rises and rising sea levels are affecting wildlife and natural habitats around the world. Although many of us are already aware of these facts, you feel you understand the impact so much more when you seeing the images of the ways in which wildlife and the natural world are being transformed. We are proud to support the BBC’s ground-breaking series, which helps us all appreciate and celebrate the wildlife that exists on our planet.”

Read more about the work Leonardo is doing to reduce its carbon footprint and environmental emissions in our Carbon Reduction Plan.