Barcelona-based yacht designer Dani Santa Vives challenges the industry with his concept for a 50m sailing yacht featuring flexible solar panels and smart glass. In this interview Santa Vives explains why he believes any yard in the world with a capacity to build 50m-plus is ready to take up on this project today.

Aquila 50 is a design concept for a 50m sailing yacht that redefines sustainable sailing as we know it. Created by Dani Santa Vives, this eco-friendly yacht requires  cutting-edge technology construction. Santa Vives talked to Superyacht Business about how the concept for Aquila 50 came about and what are the challenges this project put to the industry.

“The idea was born a year ago as I was looking forward to designing a yacht that is respectful with the environment being the answer to the increasing demand of sustainable development and use of renewable energies. I have decided to design a sailing yacht with the ability to operate in a zero emissions mode featuring green technology to run the electric systems,” he explains.

Santa Vives worked on the naval architecture starting from the hull following on from the hydrodynamic study. He then developed the exterior design and deck distribution. The styling, he explains, aims to provide a fluid and sculptural aesthetic to the yacht’s external appearance according to the sustainability concept.


Aquila 50 has been designed to operate in a zero emissions mode featuring green technologies to run the electric systems. Photo credit Dani Santa Vives

Flexible solar panels

Santa Vives wanted to replace the large sail area with an eco-friendly system. While researching for new materials and technologies he read about solar panels and learned the advantages of CIGS solar cell technology, a flexible semiconductor material made of copper, indium, gallium and selenium.

This feature, he believes, provides the double functionality of harnessing the power of the sun to generate energy while  using the wind power to propel the yacht.

“Another highlight of this design is that it is endowed with smart glass, providing users with control over their environment, better comfort and well-being while improving energy efficiency controlling precisely the amount of light, glare and heat passing through,” he explains.

Aquila 50 sports a 11.2m beam and features an opening garage on both sides, storing a one-off design 8m tender, jet skis and other toys. “Moreover the yacht can be transformed into a beach club to offer the best sea experience to ten guests,” he explains.


The vessel is shaped with a natural and organic exoskeleton structure, providing a fluid and sculptural aesthetic to the yacht’s external appearance breaking with traditional yacht design. Photo credit Dani Santa Vives

Project ready to build

Do you think there is a shipyard capable of building Aquila 50 today?

Of course! I strongly believe that any shipyard with the infrastructure necessary to build yachts over 50 meters, would be able to develop this concept.

The big question is if they would like to take up the challenge of building Aquila project, applying the forefront technologies that this concept offers, and would have the aptitude to solve the technical challenges that might arise.

What are the technical challenges for building this concept?

Regarding the exterior structure and the hull, any manufacturer could confront their construction without major difficulties.

The main challenge would be in the new manufacturing technology and the implementation onboard either in the smart glass installation or the solar panel sails with CIGS technology. I would strongly recommend analyzing the manufacturing costs and possible issues that may appear.

Finally, about the electrical system it would be a matter of looking for the best engine and batteries manufacturer that could fit in the project.

Do you think the eco-friendly trend in the superyacht market is here to stay?

I have no doubt about it. The high fuel consumption in the boating sector and even more in the superyacht market, will make the eco friendly trend increasingly notable.

Society is nowadays more aware about natural resources and the use of non-renewable energies. The sustainability and environmental consciousness will be bigger day by day.

Moreover, thanks to the increasing usage of renewable energy, emissions will be reduced and major efficiency will be achieved. That is why I think that eco-friendly yachts will be a raising trend.


This 50m sailing superyacht has a beam of 11.2m. Photo credit Dani Santa Vives

Santa Vives portfolio

Recently graduated, Dani Santa Vives has been working at Barcelona Yacht Design Group for the last six months. In addition to Aquila 50, he has developed three other projects including motoryacht Copern 50.

Dani Santa Vives was one of the finalist of the Yacht Design Talent Award 2015 with his new profile and sundeck design for a 50m Heesen project.