Coppins R&D program from concept and design, to testing and manufacture is a testament to our commitment to build the best.

We believe there only is one way to test sea anchor maximum break loads, and that is to take them out and break them. We make the strongest sea anchors in the world, so we use the biggest tugs to conduct our testing. We test globally, Norway, Spain, San Diego, Cyprus and of course all over New Zealand, because that's where our products' are used.

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Testing off the Rock of Gibraltar with Fairmount Marine

We work with local as well as international organizations in our research and development to refine our technology. These partners in development have included organizations such as SRI International, the US Navy, Miko Marine and others.

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Para Sea Anchor testing with the U.S Navy off the Coast of San Diego

Para Sea Anchor testing with the U.S Navy off the Coast of San Diego

Para Sea Anchor testing in New Zealand

Tidal testing, 7 knot tides provide ideal conditions for proof of concept.

Local testing; The large daily 4+ metre (12+feet) tidal flows at our Research & Development testing facility enable us to test designs and concepts in a turn around time that no other sea anchor manufacturer can match. Whether it's the refinement of existing products' technology, or development of new custom sea anchor technology for customers. We use this unique testing facility to ensure the best final outcome of development projects in the shortest amount of time. Coppins Para Sea Anchor Research & Development produces the toughest para sea anchors on the planet.

5 Stages of COPPINS' R&D Program


We take complex problems and turn our ideas ideas into functional solutions. Customers, individuals, businesses and governments alike regularly talk to us about ideas they have and would like to see us transform into reality. We then identify the options for solving the problem and move forward with the design. We develop our concepts through a 'big tent' approach to product development. Experts in their relative fields exist all around the world and we seek out the best minds and professional opinions to help us craft our design concepts wherever in the world they may be. We pride ourselves in accomplishing what has never been done before. The Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), based in Roseville Minnesota USA, described the Coppins company’s success as ‘defying design boundaries to produce unique, innovative and functional products.’ 


Demonstrating successful proof of concept of the products under development is a key step prior to moving to a full-scale production model. We use a variety of methods to demonstrate functionality. In the past we have worked with internationally recognised research labs to conduct computer modeling of loadings and other key design aspects. This is in addition to scale model testing with tidal currents at our R & D center. We employ a variety of other testing methods depending on the application for the product under development, such as wind tunnel tests and helicopter trials. We ensure that we have all major functionality issues resolved prior to moving to full scale product demonstration.   


Once we have completed the proof of concept stage we move on to the material selection, or in most cases custom material design. Quite regularly the specifications of projects that we take on involve problems in marine environments that have never been solved before. The solutions to these problems often involve the use of materials that have never been made before. We take it upon ourselves to engineer materials to meet the needs of our project requirements. This is something that we take great pride in. Our custom developed materials and textiles have been winning us awards for many years as we strive for excellence in everything we do.


 Once designed, our materials are sent away to be tested so we can gain an understanding of the way our custom componentry will behave under extreme stress. We test the tensile strength of the ropes compared to manufactures' claimed maximum break loads (MBL), as well as the custom designed high tenacity rip stop nylon used in the canopies, and all other components. The working relationships we maintain with researchers and scientists around the globe enable us to conduct rigorous testing that enables us to produce the strongest para anchors anywhere in the world. Our strongest sea anchor to date held drag forces of over 240 tons with no damage to the sea anchor canopy whatsoever. 

It is at this point in the product development that we move into full-scale prototype testing, with a focus on identifying the weakest points in the system and developing solutions that address those issues. We scale up our concept designs incorporating the lessons learned and modifications from the proof of concept stage, constructing them with the custom developed materials and componentry. We conduct these initial tests locally; with our proximity to the largest fishing port in the southern hemisphere we have access to a variety of marine vessels for large scale testing purposes. We can conduct many tests in quick succession and produce drag force data as well as para anchor behavioral observations while under load. This information is used to make slight refinements in the final design of the sea anchor product. It is a testament to the early phases of our R&D process, and our meticulous and thorough approach to every step that the refinements at this stage of the development process are minor.


At Coppins we have conducted the largest scale tests on the strongest sea anchors anywhere in the world.  Our specialty is big, strong, light, and easily deployable. We test all of our sea anchors in the toughest conditions imaginable to find the weak points and eliminate them. We travel the world to find the right testing facilities and use the biggest tugboats in the world. When you take tugs like those owned by Fairmount Marine with a gross tonnage of 3,239 tons and 16,000hp, get them up to 16 knots, and throw a sea anchor off the stern, you’ll find out if the product you are testing can handle real force, ours can. Our collaboration with research institutes through some of our key projects has enabled us to document related drag force statistics, producing independently verified data by reputable researchers and scientists. 

Over 40 Years of Coppins Research and Design

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» 1970's and Early 1980's

Coppins modern R&D program commenced around 40 years ago, and at the time was focused on the development of drag devices for the fishing industry here in New Zealand.

Prior to Coppins entry into the market drag devices most often used at the time were rudimentary and ineffective and unsuitable for purpose, as both the drag coefficient was minimal and their weight and size made them difficult to use and even more difficult to deploy. The drag devices at the time were shaped like a wind sock, lacking efficiency and making them bigger and bulkier than they needed to be. They were made out of PVC, which with its increased size, were 6 times the weight of the sea anchors developed by Coppins. 

Coppins developed custom-made sea anchor innovations, made of nylon for its strength, weight and stretch characteristics. This changed the face of the sea anchors industry as at the time others were using excess military parachutes as drag devices. As far as we are aware, we were the first company in the world to manufacture parachutes specially designed for marine applications.

Production was ramped up with the incursion of the squid fishing industry into NZ. The increased production and specially made custom specs of each project enabled us to refine the manufacturing processes of the sea anchors themselves. Through the rest of the 80’s we continued to produce sea anchors for the fishing industry and started development of our next product……….

» 1980's-The StormFighter™

....although it was not called this at the time. This revolutionary sea anchor started out as a scaled down version of what we were producing for the tuna and squid fishing boats. We applied the feedback we heard from our customers and incorporated these into the design. Throughout the 1980's we were constantly pushing the envelope looking for ways to make our para anchors stronger and easier to use.

» 1990's-The Limpet™ Sea Anchor

Designed for recreational fishermen to be user-friendly but not built to take the same forces as the larger anchors. Applying the lessons learned in relation to the hydrodynamic behavior of sea anchor canopies underwater, we were able to scale down the technology. The vast majority of products we found in this category were so simply made, and borderline useless in relation to reducing drift of a boat due to their negligible drag coefficient. We made the Limpet™ available as a basic sea anchor or with a fully functional rode and related deployment system to give our customers better options.

» 1995-Deployment Systems

We continued development and refinement of our sea anchor products into the 1990’s and in 1995 based on feedback from our customers we initiated a R&D program focusing on the deployment systems for our sea anchors to maximise ease of use, simplicity, reliability and ultimately, safety.

Until that point deployment systems for sea anchors had not been invented. They were stored in a bag and thrown over the bow in a manner that is still employed by many of our competitors to this day. This has many risks, primarily, being up on the bow of your boat in weather which necessitates a sea anchor. Our feedback shows most people leave the deployment of their sea anchor until the last minute, when conditions are unsuitable for deployment, support crew are sick or injured, or some other circumstances had led to the decision to deploy the sea anchor. We must take into account the fact that if you have a giant parachute in your hands in extremely high winds, this makes for a less than ideal situation. We knew that there must be a better way, and so we took it upon ourselves to develop a system to simply deploy our sea anchors from the safety of the cockpit. Without the hassles of having to rig up a buoy, trip line and other related components of a sea anchor system, ease of use was increased, as the easier it is to deploy, the safer it makes you and your crew. 

» 1996- Rode Kits

Through our development of deployment systems we came to the realisation that the rode plays a crucial part in the overall safety of the sea anchor and its ease of deployment. A fully integrated rode and sea anchor system deployed from the cockpit is the simplest, most effective and streamlined method of deployment. Our customers greatly appreciated that we incorporated the rode into our deployment system. They found that knowing the entire system was rigged and ready to go when they needed it as opposed to having to assemble the various components reassuring. Our customers' experience in real world situations show that people normally wait till the last possible minute to deploy their sea anchor. By this point conditions are less than ideal and having the simplest possible deployment procedures at your disposal is a significant advantage and adds to overall safety.

» 1996-SeaClaw™

1996 was a big year at Coppins with the introduction of the SeaClaw™ into our product line up. The SeaClaw™ was developed based on requests from our customers for a drag device that planed below the surface of the sea avoiding turbulence experienced by other drogues. All other drag devices have the potential to skip across the surface, but the SeaClaw™ dives below the surface at a ratio of 1 metre for every 6 metres of rode let out from the stern. This system maintains constant tension on the rode and eliminates the tendency of the drogue to bounce across the surface of the water. Users appreciated the fact that it simply rises to the surface to be retrieved once forward movement has ceased.

 All of our hard work was recognized in 1996 when we won the supreme award from OPANZ in addition to 5 other awards for our efforts.

» 1996-2007 Sea Anchor Shaping and Product Refinement

We spent the 90’s refining our product design and systems with a focus on safety, efficiency and ease of use across our entire line. We focused on getting our pack size and overall weight down to their absolute minimum. We also refined the miscellaneous aspects of our deployment system to ensure that every aspect of our sea anchor system worked together in a cohesive, and easy to use manner maximising safety for the user.

We then spent the first years of the 2000's focusing on refining the shape of our sea anchors to maximise the hydrodynamic qualities for size, as well as increasing their strength. It was during this time that we really refined and perfected our craft. For more information on the developments over this time please see our Technology & Awards page.


» 2007- Large Sale Super Strength Para Anchor Innovation

 In 2007 we were approached by two separate organisations from overseas to work on developing separate Coppins Super Strength Sea Anchors and deployment solutions for problems they had.

One of these organisations was SRI International, from California who approached Coppins on behalf of the U.S Navy to develop and demonstrate extremely large, extremely strong para anchors for application on ships up to and over 41,000 tons. This established the basis for the working relationship between Coppins, SRI International, and the U.S Navy that resulted in the pushing of boundaries of what is possible for large scale sea anchors and drag devices.

Throughout the development of the large scale, Super Strength Sea Anchors, the issue surrounding the deployment systems proved to be a prevailing battle for the end user. Coppins developed a radio controlled release mechanism for the application as a option. When tested it proved to be successful, and was incorporated into the final model.

We have now conducted years of large scale, high strength testing, measuring drag force, break loads, and other matrices to maximise the efficiency of Coppins Super Strength Sea Anchor systems. Through this research we were able to produce the largest and strongest sea anchor systems in the world today.

The second organization that approached us in 2007 was Miko Marine from Norway on behalf of a European consortium to work on development of The ShipArrestor project. We did not become fully involved in the project until a few years later, but are proud to be a co-developer and manufacturer of the ShipArrestor system.


» 2012- Industrial Fabric Association International Award for Innovation

‘Congratulations, you are an Award of Excellence winner!  Your sea anchor project is being recognised as the best project submitted... We acknowledge your project as being one chosen for defying design boundaries to produce unique, innovative and functional products.' IFAI 2012

Managing Director Bill Coppins said, ‘That’s the equivalent of an Olympic Gold Medal in our industry. It gives us even more incentive to get further ahead – we just want to get better and better.’

See Awards page for links to articles

Ship Steerage Sea Anchor Research and Development, San Diego 2010

In 2010 we were still in trials with SRI International relating to large scale sea anchor applications when the end user approached us to tackle a side-line project. The goal was established to stabilise extremely large ships at low speeds (under 7 knots) to facilitate predictable maneuverability in close quarters with other large vessels. The goal was to make the transfer of extremely heavy commercial objects such as containers, tanks, jets or any other large object or humanitarian supplies possible.

Developed in conjunction with SRI International and the U.S Navy, the Ship Steerage product was designed and manufactured at our facilities in New Zealand and tested off the coast of San Diego with the assistance of the USNS Washington Chambers.

The system was taken to sea out from San Diego for full scale tests where it was deployed from the “R/V Robert Gordon Sproul,” a 40-metre research vessel. The dragline was transferred to the newly launched 210-metre, 41,000-ton vessel, the “USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE11)” which towed the sea anchor for release, drag and steerage tests. The system performed 100 percent in every area and was an unqualified success. The client has since compiled a list of 43 potential uses for Coppins Sea Anchors, including possible applications for oil companies. After the successful tests the US Navy said, “These guys are like MacGyver - give them a problem and they’ll have a solution next day!”

Large Scale Commercial Para Sea Anchor R & D, Spain and Cyprus 2012-2013

Our trips to Spain and Cyprus in 2012 and 2013 were to conduct testing aboard Fairmount Marine's 16,000 horse power tugs. This was for the purpose of testing how much force Coppins Sea Anchors could handle. We knew that we were pushing boundaries in relation to strength in the field of commercial para sea anchors and wanted to collect data on break loads and force loadings. We worked with SRI International on these tests and the drag force data that they were able to capture confirmed our beliefs that we make the toughest par sea anchors. We ended up smashing the 500kg 250 ton force meter during one of the high speed large scale deployments and broke the high strength rode that was rated to 243 tons (see gallery). Upon retrieval we saw that the Coppins Para Sea Anchor was completely undamaged during the test, we just needed to have a bigger rode! We conducted many tests on a variety of sizes of our Super Strength Para Sea Anchors and we were extremely proud as to how they performed. Our smaller 7.5 metre Coppins Super Strength Para Sea Anchor was deployed at 10 knots and sustained forces in excess of 150 tons unscathed. On the final day of testing the weather did us a favour and the sea state increased and we were able to conduct testing in conditions that could prove dangerous should a vessel become disabled. 

We go around the world to test Coppins Super Strength Para Sea Anchors. Using the biggest commercial boats in the roughest seas is the only way to know that our para sea anchors will perform when your safety is on the line.

Ship Arrestor Para Sea Anchor Research and Development