Rolls Royce made the first flight of the all-electric “Spirit of Innovation” aircraft. At 14:56 (BST) the plane took to the skies 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.
“The first flight of the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is a great achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce. We are focused on producing the technology breakthroughs society needs to decarbonise transport across air, land and sea, and capture the economic opportunity of the transition to net zero. This is not only about breaking a world record; the advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Urban Air Mobility market and can help make ‘jet zero’ a reality”, Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce said.
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.
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.
Rolls-Royce is offering customers a complete electric propulsion system for their platform, whether it is an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft or a passenger jet. It will use technology from the ACCEL project and will be applied to products aimed at these exciting new markets. The characteristics that the “air cabs” require from the batteries are very similar to those being developed for the “Spirit of Innovation” so that it can reach speeds of over 300 MPH (480+ KMH), which is the goal of the world record attempt. In addition, Rolls-Royce and aircraft manufacturer Tecnam are currently working with Widerøe, Scandinavia’s largest regional airline, to deliver an all-electric airliner, which is scheduled to be ready for service in 2026.
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