Rolls-Royce have completed the first flight of their all-electric ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft this week.
The plane took to the skies this week propelled by its powerful 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain with the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft. This is another step towards the plane’s world-record attempt and another milestone on the aviation industry’s journey towards decarbonisation.
Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce, said:
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng added:
The aircraft took off from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site, which is managed by QinetiQ and flew for approximately 15 minutes.
The site has a long heritage of experimental flights and the first flight marks the beginning of an intense flight-testing phase in which we will be collecting valuable performance data on the aircraft’s electrical power and propulsion system. The ACCEL programme, short for ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’ includes key partners YASA, the electric motor and controller manufacturer, and aviation start-up Electroflight. The ACCEL team have continued to innovate while adhering to the UK Government’s social distancing and other health guidelines.
Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK. In the run up to COP26, the ACCEL programme is further evidence of the UK’s position at the forefront of the zero-emission aircraft revolution.
Gary Elliott, CEO, Aerospace Technology Institute said:
Rolls-Royce is offering our customers a complete electric propulsion system for their platform, whether that is an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) or commuter aircraft. They say they will be using the technology from the ACCEL project and applying it to products for these exciting new markets.
The characteristics that ‘air-taxis’ require from batteries are very similar to what is being developed for the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ so that it can reach speeds of 300+ MPH (480+ KMH) – which they are targeting in their world record attempt.
In addition, Rolls-Royce and airframer Tecnam are currently working with Widerøe, the largest regional airline in Scandinavia, to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market, which is planned to be ready for revenue service in 2026.
In June, Rolls-Royce announced their pathway to net zero carbon emissions – a year on from joining the UN Race to Zero campaign – and the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is one way in which they are helping decarbonise the critical parts of the global economy in which they operate.
Rolls-Royce state: “We committed to ensuring our new products will be compatible with net zero operation by 2030 and all our products will be compatible with net zero by 2050.”