Rolls-Royce's All-Electric Aircraft Takes to the Sky for the First Time

Rolls Royce's all-electric plane meets the sky for the first time
Rolls Royce's all-electric plane meets the sky for the first time

Rolls-Royce's all-electric "Spirit of Innovation" aircraft has completed its maiden flight. "Spirit of Innovation", which has the most powerful battery ever mounted on an aircraft, met the sky on Wednesday, July 400th at 500:15 local time, powered by a 14kW (56+hp) electric powertrain. This flight is an important step towards the airplane's world record attempt and also represents a milestone in the aviation industry's journey to decarbonize.

Regarding the completion of the first flight of the “Spirit of Innovation” aircraft, Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce said: “The first flight of our Spirit of Innovation aircraft is a collaborative success between the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce. At Rolls-Royce, we continue to produce the technological innovations needed to decarbonize air, land and sea transport and gain economic opportunity in the transition to our net zero carbon strategy. The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this program has exciting applications for the Urban Air Mobility market and can help make 'Jet Zero' a reality.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, Minister of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “The first flight of Rolls-Royce's revolutionary Spirit of Innovation aircraft is a major step forward in the transition to cleaner flights globally. This success and the records we hope will follow show us that the UK is at the forefront of aviation innovation.”

“By supporting projects like this, the government is helping advance technology that pushes the boundaries that will lead to cleaner, greener aircraft that will strengthen investment and realize our climate change contribution.”

The aircraft, which is owned by the UK Ministry of Defense and managed by QinetiQ, took off from the Boscombe Down test site, which has a long history of test flights, and made its flight, which took about 15 minutes. Thanks to this first flight, Rolls-Royce will collect key performance data about the takeoff aircraft's electrical power and propulsion system and begin an intense flight test phase. Among the main partners of the program, shortly called ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight), are the electric motor and controller manufacturer YASA and the aviation start-up called Electroflight. The ACCEL team continues its innovation efforts by complying with the UK Government's social distance and other health-related regulations.

The project is semi-financed by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) in partnership with the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK. In the lead up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26, the ACCEL program is further proof that the UK is at the forefront of the zero-emission aircraft revolution.

Gary Elliott, CEO of Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), said: “The first flight of Spirit of Innovation demonstrates how innovative technology can provide solutions to some of the challenges facing the world. ATI is funding projects such as ACCEL to help the UK acquire new capabilities and remain a leader in technologies to decarbonize aviation. We congratulate everyone who worked on the ACCEL project and made this first flight a reality, and we look forward to the world speed record initiative that will attract great public interest in the year the UK hosts the COP26 Conference.”

Rolls-Royce continues to offer its customers an electric propulsion system for all its platforms, whether it is an electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle (eVTOL) or a short-haul (commuter) aircraft. Rolls-Royce also plans to use technology from the ACCEL project to provide new solutions for these exciting markets. The features required by the batteries developed for “air taxis” are very similar to the developments made on the Spirit of Innovation that will enable the world record attempt with a speed of 300+ MPH (480+ KMH). In addition, Rolls-Royce and airframe manufacturer Tecnam are joining forces with Scandinavia's largest regional airline, Widerøe, for an all-electric passenger plane for the commuter market, which will be ready for service in 2026.

In June, following Rolls-Royce's participation in the UN Race to Zero campaign, the company's net zero carbon strategy and roadmap were announced. Along the way, Rolls-Royce's "Spirit of Innovation" aircraft will help decarbonize critical segments of the global economy. Rolls-Royce also pledges that its new products will comply with a net zero carbon strategy by 2030 and that all of its products will be net zero compliant by 2050.

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