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DroneSeastem-Protect Project: drones will protect our maritime access routes - the manufacturers of the French Southern region are ready!

Tuesday, February 04 2020
During Euromaritime 2020, 7 major manufacturers from the French Southern Region will present their DroneSeastem-Protect project in Marseille.



DroneSeastem-Protect is the first project resulting from the DroneSeastem programme of the "maritime drone" sector in the French Southern Region - Region Sud. This programme brings together the main industrial players in the region's robotics industry around a set of actions aimed at developing this sector in the Region: Incubation, training, support for sea trials, R&D. 

On this last aspect, 7 major manufacturers in the robotics sector located in the Southern region have joined together around DroneSeastem-Protect. This research and industrialization project aims at better securing sensitive maritime sites, ranging from ports to offshore energy production sites, including bodies of water for sports competitions or marine protected areas.

To develop this system dedicated to maritime surveillance and security, ECA GROUP, Alseamar, CLS, IFREMER, IXblue, Naval Group and Subsea tech are combining their skills and capacity for innovation to jointly develop fundamental technological building blocks for the future of robotics, in particular with regard to the decision-making autonomy of drones, the collaboration of a team of heterogeneous robots, high-resolution sensors, data collection and processing, and cyber security.

The system resulting from DroneSeastem-Protect calls for the simultaneous use of a team of drones, under the supervision of a single command and control station. This first integrated, efficient and reliable system will give the operator easy access to information provided by a team of robots operating simultaneously on the water, underwater and in the air.

In concrete terms, it will significantly improve the surveillance of these sites by increasing the coverage area, density and persistence of traditional surveillance systems. When a suspicious object is detected, aerial drones will very quickly provide an accurate image. Once the threat has been identified, the surface drones will be able to intervene accordingly based on the operator's decision.

The system will also be more economical and environmentally friendly as it will reduce the use of heavy means such as surveillance ships or aircraft including helicopters. The use of drones will also allows to keep security teams away from danger. By optimizing the number of operators needed, it will reconcile cost reduction with increased efficiency.

From the outset, the programme has been supported by the Southern Region within the framework of the Regional Interest Operation "Sea Economy". The partners were also able to rely on the Mediterranean Sea Cluster (Pôle Mer Méditerranée) and its regional ecosystem. At the end of five years, more than a hundred jobs and tens of millions of euros in turnover will result directly from this project.

This will start in 2020 with a 36-month phase of development, system tuning and coordination of the various teams. A demonstration in real-life conditions will validate this work in the first half of 2023, which will make the system compatible with an implementation in the Marseille's harbor for the nautical events of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Financing for the project of almost €15 million is currently being finalized between private and public partners.

In recent months, the qualities of the DroneSeastem-Protect project have been recognized by leading institutional players. The CORIMER, (a French council for research and innovation in the sea industry) has thus selected it as part of the Call for Innovative Projects of the Sea Industry Sector for 2019. It has also been approved by the Strategic Committee of the Security Industry Sector in view of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

By making the most innovative technological advances easily accessible, DroneSeastem-Protect lays the foundations for tomorrow's maritime safety and paves the way for great technological and commercial prospects for the entire industry.

A presentation of the project will take place on the Southern Region’s booth at Euromaritime 2020 at 2.00 p.m. on February 4.

A demonstration of the drones and other components of the future system will take place the next day, February 5, at 2.00 p.m. at the French National Institute of Professional Diving (INPP) site at Pointe Rouge (Marseille).

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The DroneSeastem Program, initiated by ECA GGROUP, aims to federate manufacturers in the robotics sector for marine and maritime applications in order to strengthen the ecosystem and accelerate the sector’s development in the Region. It consists of 4 main parts:

  • Part 1: R&D projects of which DroneSeastem-Protect is the first example proposed by industrial players
  • Part 2: The incubation and acceleration of start-ups capable of developing technological building blocks and solutions for the entire ecosystem
  • Part 3: The creation of infrastructures and means of sea trials enabling members of the sector to carry out tests under real-life conditions more easily
  • Part 4: The development of training courses, in conjunction with the region's schools and universities, in order to better adapt the curriculum to the skills needed by businesses

To date, it brings together the main players in the robotics sector in the Southern Region, including: ECA GROUP, Alseamar, CLS, IFREMER, IXblue, Naval Group and Subsea tech, local universities such as the Toulon University, competitiveness centers including le Pôle Mer, Toulon Var Technologie or the Southern Region within the framework of the Regional Interest Operation "Sea Economy".


project leader - eca group

ECA GROUP is a global player in robotics recognized for its expertise in drones, specialized automated systems, and simulation. It employs 700 people for a turnover of 102 million euros. ECA GROUP is today one of the only players in the world to have a complete offer mobile robotics operable in all environments (underwater, on surface, on land and in the air). This advantage allows to address very specific needs in the different service robotics markets, since it offers a range of vectors operating in different environments, and also a range of robotic systems able to team in order to perform specific missions.




ALSEAMAR is a company of the ALCEN Group, specialized in the design, manufacture, and operation of underwater gliders (SeaExplorer), acoustic antennas for underwater detection, as well as antenna communication systems on ships and submarines. ALSEAMAR employs around 100 people and has turnover of 22 million euros.


Founded by the CNES in 1986, CLS is an international company, pioneer in the supply of satellite solutions for Earth observation and monitoring. Its vision: to develop and deploy innovative solutions to study, protect our planet and manage its resources sustainably. CLS employs 720 people, at its headquarters in Toulouse and at its 24 other sites around the world. It deploys its services in 5 strategic activity sectors: environmental and climate monitoring, sustainable fisheries management, fleet management, energy, mines and infrastructure and maritime security.



IFREMER is the French institute for research on the sea. The institute employs around 1300 people with a turnover of around 200 million euros. IFREMER operates the French oceanographic fleet. As such, the institute has a double mission of carrying both scientific and operational research for:

  • Oceanographic missions carried out on behalf of the French State, for its own research needs
  • Cooperation purposes with foreign research institutes or laboratories

IFREMER both designs, manufactures, and operates most of the underwater robots used to carry out these missions.



IXBLUE is a French ETI company created in 2000 which employs 550 people for a turnover of 110 million euros. The company has built its growth and reputation on high-tech markets and in particular in positioning and navigation systems for air, surface, and submarine vehicles. Likewise, it offers a range of underwater acoustic imaging products. IXBLUE designs, develops and manufactures all its products on the national territory and exports more than 80% of its production. IXBLUE also has an oceanography and hydrography service at sea with two operations centers: in La Ciotat (Bouches du Rhône) and in Brisbane (Australia). To meet the needs of these activities, IXBLUE has developed DriX, a versatile USV which has 7 days of autonomy.


NAVAL GROUP is a high-tech company with an international scope and is one of the few world leaders in naval defense systems that have mastered the entire chain of carrying out complex programs. NAVAL GROUP employs around 13,500 people and has turnover of around 3.6 billion euros. It meets the needs of its customers thanks to its exceptional know-how and its unique industrial resources. With more than four hundred years of history serving a first rank National Navy, NAVAL GROUP offers industrial tools and skills which only two or three companies in the world have. NAVAL GROUP is the European leader in military naval systems and is build on a solid national base as well as significant export references. The group designs, builds and maintains in operational conditions submarines and surface ships, as well as the associated systems and infrastructure. Integrating drones in combat and in the naval force is today a major challenge for NAVAL GROUP.


SUBSEA TECH is an engineering company which employs 16 people for a turnover of around 2.5 million euros, specializing in marine and underwater technologies. The company is based on two divisions:

  • A Research and Development division which offers its customers and partners non-standardized solutions to problems of measurement, observation, or intervention in an aquatic environment
  • a Production division responsible for producing small and medium series of recurring systems for the military, civil and scientific markets.

SUBSEA TECH has become a European leader in the design and manufacture of mini ROVs but keeps a strong activity of R&D and special projects in order to develop new products, in particular in the fields of the inspection of engineering structures, port security and surveillance of underwater petroleum infrastructure.

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