Vincent Drevillon : our expertise in ocean racing is essential in diversifying into other sectors4 min de lecture

  • Competitive sailing

INTERVIEW available in the last Bretagne Sailing Valley® News – Newsletter #14 – Summer 2023

Specialists in on-board electronics and data processing, Pixel sur Mer, based in Lorient and Brest, has enjoyed strong growth for fifteen years, with a turnover in 2022 of 2.5 million euros. Its director of scientific programs, Vincent Drévillon, provides an update on this company which now employs 25 people and whose activity highlights technology transfers from advanced boating to other sectors.

What does Pixel sur Mer do ? 

Our multidisciplinary teams of engineers and technicians invent, supply and install complete onboard electronics systems. For us, access to data is the key to sailing performance and safety. Our data collection and visualisation solutions are the first building blocks that enable our teams to create intelligent, automated solutions that reinvent the way we navigate. Today, our solutions are capable of making ships fly, avoiding collisions and capsizes, but also helping the most demanding competitors win.

What are the main stages of your development ? 

The company was created by Jean-François Cuzon, who was a navigator-electronic engineer in Michel Desjoyeaux’s team at the time of the Orma multihulls. He then joined the Areva Challenge for the America’s Cup and in 2008 founded Pixel sur Mer. He is still the director, working first on the integration of systems on board the Imocas. Gradually, we created a complete fiber optic strain measurement solution allowing the monitoring of structural parts of the boat: mast, hull and foils. Then, we identified the opportunity to create a design office, of about ten people today, to meet the new challenges linked to the emergence of foils. We started with the Gitana Team in 2017, with whom we worked on a first flight controller which we pioneered.

In terms of product, how does this ? 

It is illustrated through the Exocet boxes, which we design and manufacture ourselves. Our first solution is a kind of black box allowing visualization and transmission technology through our collection to monitor a set of data on board and ashore. Our systems manage up to 150 sensors on board a latest generation Imoca. The second is a navigation unit that integrates the calculation of the true wind, and custom settings, offering an advanced autopilot function. Then, in 2021, we released the system which was adapted to flight, the Exocet Gold, the result of our developments with the Ultim teams. Our key thing is to have a range of off-the-shelf solutions – such as the one we supply to Class40s or to Lake Geneva inshore racing boats, the TF35s, which we equip as standard -, while continuing to develop the custom designed and made solutions.

What new horizons are opening up to you ? 

More than any laboratory area, competitive sailing is our DNA [it represents 75% of turnover, Ed]. Some of our engineers have the distinction of having preferred access to sailors to test our equipment at sea on board Imoca and Ultims. Our expertise at sea in offshore racing is essential to open us up to other sectors, whether in the field of aeronautics or maritime transport to contribute to the emergence of smart, autonomous and sustainable ships. Today, we are collaborating on a 180-passenger boat project in Norway which is motorized on foils. We are working to provide the entire chain of technological parts in order to stabilize it.

And in the area of security ? 

We are part of the EXOS-2024 consortium project, in response to a call for expressions of interest between the Pôle Mer Bretagne Atlantique and the Imoca class, to develop a system for detecting and avoiding obstacles at sea, with the long-term ambition of finding a subsurface sensor technology for the detection of cetaceans. Our proposal centralizes all the data from the radar, the AIS, as well as the Sea.AI cameras (ex Oscar) to then generate an automatic action for the pilot, making it follow an anti-collision course. We are working with the aim of having a first solution for the next Vendée Globe.

Crédit photo : © Pixel sur Mer

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