The power of flight is one of nature’s greatest achievements. From its humble beginnings, over one hundred billion creatures soar through the sky today, from tiny, nectar-drinking hummingbirds to armoured airborne beetles, bizarre winged lizards and sonar-guided bats hunting in the dead of night. In Conquest of the Skies, David Attenborough travels through time to unravel the astonishing, 300-million-year story of the flying animals. Who were the first flying creatures, where did they evolve, and how did they adapt into the huge variety of aeronauts that fill our skies today? Only now can he reveal the hidden mechanics behind their gravity-defying skills, using cutting-edge CGI, the very latest in high-resolution filming techniques, and pioneering scientific analysis.
David embarks on an extraordinary journey to unravel one of nature’s most gripping stories – the evolution of flying animals. He begins by exploring the unexpectedly advanced world of the very first flyers – the insects. Stunning new images give us fresh insights into an astonishing story – from the first dragonfly-like creatures that emerged from the water to fly on four wings, to the beetles that built hard wing-cases to colonise the land, and butterflies capable of migrating halfway round the globe. He concludes by investigating the remarkable skills of jet fighter of the insect world – the humble but surprisingly acrobatic fly.
David Attenborough continues his search for the origins of flying animals, as he charts the rise of new, larger creatures – extinct reptiles that flew on wings of skin, dinosaurs that sprouted feathers to become the ancestors of birds, and gliding mammals that emerged from a life in the trees to dominate the night as bats. His journey spans the globe – from the rainforests of Borneo to see bizarre gliding animals, to China and its new discoveries of dinosaur fossils. Stunning CGI brings to life creatures that disappeared over 200 million years ago, and new filming techniques bring us closer than ever to the secrets of flight itself.
David concludes his epic history of the evolution of flight with an exploration of the highly advanced fliers that dominate our skies today – the extraordinarily diverse skills of the birds, and the sonar-guided precision of the bats. He encounters some of our planet’s most remarkable fliers – from peregrine falcons dive-bombing starlings over Rome, to hummingbirds hovering in the cloud forests of Ecuador. In a spectacular finale, he visits Gomantong cave in Borneo to witness the mass exodus of a million bats.
From the steaming rainforests of Borneo to the freezing fossil beds of China, the arid canyons of Spain and the remote cloud-forests of Ecuador, this series spans the globe and travels through time to explore the thrilling and surprising story of how flying animals came to conquer the skies. The team used ground-breaking 3D cameras, high speed filming and stunning CGI to immerse the viewer in an astounding aerial world. 3D demands that subjects be filmed relatively close to the camera – far from ideal in a wildlife documentary. This represented an extremely tricky task, so the team liaised extensively with UAV designers, macro-rig engineers and directors-of-photography who helped us to develop entirely new systems that took 3D to places it had never been before. The Octocopter is a multi-rotor UAV with customised gimbal capable of carrying 2 Red Epic cameras in order to shoot 3D. The octocopter was developed to help the team film in 3D in places no other 3D rig has ever got to, but it also posed many challenges. Its weight meant that flight-time was severely limited, and in volatile environments like the rainforest, where conditions can change rapidly, every flight was valuable and any failed attempt would have been costly.