2014 - proof of concept
A deformable structure pressed around a hull breach yields an efficient seal in an original manner.
This idea is confirmed on the breach of a small boat in a swimming pool, using a foam balloon.
A prototype inflatable polyethylene balloon with an axial duct is successfully tested. Once inflated between the dammaged hull and a circular plate, it yields a quick and strong counter-pressure. Moreover, it adapts to irregular or angular surfaces.
A patent is filed with the French patent office in May 2014.
2015 - first tests at sea
The first tests at sea are successfully carried out in Marseille's bay, on breaches of increasing size under the waterline of a 6 m sailboat, launched from its trailer with Airbob installed.
The system is then uninstalled and reinstalled at sea under realistic wreck conditions with breaches as large as a soda can.
An international extension for the patent is filed.
2016 - critical tests
The accumulated experience at sea and materials evolution (carbon plate and glass fiber / epoxy bar) allow the fulfillment of an unprecedented experiment.
The system is installed on a 15 x 9 cm shattered breach which can sink the boat in a few minutes, inside a hull loaded with about a ton of water.
The same boat then sails for 60 miles, and spends one night anchored at bay with the breached sealed by the system.
The Nautinov company is created in November.
2017 - technical evolution
Switching the balloon material to thermoplastic polyurethane yields an improvement in resistance and elasticity. The cam cleat is integrated to the plate, and an injection mould is built.
The systen is now mature in terms of reliability, ease of use and lightness, with predictable manufacturing costs. Scalability is possible thanks to three French subcontractors. A pre-series of 100 devices is produced for rescuers and professional sailors.S
The French patent is delivered and Airbob wins an award at the 45th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva in May 2017.
2018 - partnerships and product launch
Cooperation with professionals at sea begins, with 50 French rescuers stations equipped with the device and 15 professional sailors of the Route du Rhum
The system is presented in the Nautics (boat shows) of La Rochelle and Paris, and arouses interest among insurance companies.
The patent is officialy delivered in the USA and Europe in July. Online sales start in November.