National Geographic Takes Amazing Wildlife Images Thanks to Robots

Sara Cunningham August 12, 2013 0
National Geographic Takes Amazing Wildlife Images Thanks to Robots

Before the technological revolution, people working as photographers for a television used to take pictures of a wildlife risking their life. When I was watching a documentary about lions or tigers I was always wondering how they were taking videos or pictures from up-close. Yes, zooming also was a partial answer to my question but sometimes I was noticing photographer’s shadow right in front of the camera. National Geographic has found a new way how to take amazing and intimate pictures of the wildlife. Simple, they are using robots.

The first who came to this idea was Michael Nichols who is working and living with lions in Tanzania for the two years. He came up with an idea to make a story about the lion’s pride and release it in this issue of National Geographic magazine. The idea was showing the daily routines of the lions and take pictures that were never taken before. He said that lions don’t want to look at them because they hate it.


Taking pictures from up-close has meant taking huge risk about himself and his team. They could easily take photos of the lions with those standard telephoto lenses which are used for this purpose but they wanted something different. This team had more innovative solution which involved robots and infrared lights. The results were published last week and they are breathtaking.

After numerous testing, Nichols with his college Nathan Williamson has decided to try with a remote-controlled robot right in the middle of the lions’ field in order to capture images. This robot equipped with camera was produced by SuperDroid Robots. This company specializes at bob-defusing robotics and it’s based in North Carolina. While the robot patrolled around the lions’ nest taking shots from up close, MikroKopter drone was taking aerial shots. This MikroKopter drone was made by a German company and took pictures with customized Canon camera. Nichols and Williamson also did their part of the work taking pictures from their stand point and controlling the robot and drone with remote controllers.

This work was made in total darkness because the lions are sleeping through the whole day and they hunt at night. They were using the infrared lights in order to produce best quality pictures and this tech feature was mounted on the top of the robot. These invisible IR rays didn’t disturb the lions and enabled the team to take wonderful shots. Nichols has captures approximately 240,000 images through the expedition course while Williams shot 200 hours of video data.

If you are wondering now how the lions have responded to the robot and drone, Nichols has said that they adapted really quickly and after 3 visits they weren’t even noticing it. He added that the technology has enabled an opportunity for them to take pictures of animals under their terms. It’s still unclear how this technology will perform when it’s taken close to other species but lions reacted great. They were aware that the robot was our belonging but they didn’t react on it as a threat.
After years planning and researching, they finally made their publication. According to National Geographic’s senior photo editor, Kathy Morgan, this is conservation story and the main goal was to clear the myths about lions in order to show how they act, live and what it means for us to live with these wild species.

Using robots to take awesome pictures of wildlife is an excellent idea. This is why I love technology – we can take advantage of it in almost every part of our lives. In this case, who can resist National Geographic’s breathtaking pictures

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