Inside a small office in a picturesque marina, Azimut-Benetti is focused on the future.
Most boatbuilders of any size have one or two engineers whose job it is to bat around futuristic ideas and tinker with new projects, many of which will never see the light of day. Azimut-Benetti has an entire office and 15 engineers dedicated to thinking of the future. In the States, we’d call this a skunk works; Azimut-Benetti calls it simply the Advanced Research and Development center.
Located by a picturesque harbor in the town of Varazze, the center is small but prolific. The concepts it develops can find their way into any or all of the company’s three brands—Azimut, Atlantis, and Benetti. Here are a few of the projects the engineers are at work on:
Carbon fiber hybrid materials:Developing practical methods for reducing overall vessel weight is a main focus of the center. This project concentrates on things like hatch covers, masts, canopies, and even large components like deckhouses and decks.
Electric tenders:To reduce its vessels’ overall energy footprint, the center is working with outside partners to develop an all-electric tender that can maintain a speed of eight knots for at least one hour.
Photovoltaic panels:Like many builders, Azimut-Benetti is exploring ways to reduce electrical loads using photovoltaic collectors. It’s also looking into ways of lowering air conditioning demand through the use of better insulation and reflective window coatings.
Hydrogen power:As PMY reported last year, Azimut is the first boatbuilder with a working prototype of a genset powered by hydrogen. Future plans include deriving the hydrogen directly from seawater.
Environmentally friendlier materials:Engineers are looking at sustainable alternatives to teak and other hardwoods, as well as non-toxic fabrics, carpets, and paints that have the same or better aesthetics.
ViaSat:Azimut’s proprietary satellite-locating system is designed to reduce financing and insurance paperwork and vessel documentation when entering ports.
Active noise cancellation:By using counter-phase sound generators, engineers believe they can reduce interior sound levels by at least 3 dB.
Video mooring:Already in the prototype stage, this system could provide hands-free docking in confined areas through the use of sensors and video inputs.
Easy Handling system:Available today on selected models, Easy Handling increases both low- and high-speed maneuverability by automatically modulating propeller thrust in accordance with wheel input. It reportedly reduces the turning radius and increases average turn speed by 50 percent.
This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.