Rolls-Royce’s all-electric aircraft has completed its first flight. The ‘Spirit of Innovation’ took off from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site, which is managed by QinetiQ and flew for approximately 15 minutes.
The flight marks the beginning of an intense flight-testing phase to collect performance data on the aircraft’s electrical power and propulsion system. The aircraft has an electric powertrain which Rolls-Royce says is the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft. 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.
To watch a video of the flight, see Spirit of Innovation takes to the skies
Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and 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.
“The first flight of the Spirit of Innovation demonstrates how innovative technology can provide solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges,” said Gary Elliott, CEO, Aerospace Technology Institute. “The ATI is funding projects like ACCEL to help UK develop new capabilities and secure a lead in the technologies that will decarbonise aviation. We congratulate everyone who has worked on the ACCEL project to make the first flight a reality and look forward to the world speed record attempt which will capture the imagination of the public in the year that the UK hosts COP26.”
Rolls-Royce is aiming to offer its customers a complete electric propulsion system, whether that is an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) or commuter aircraft.
The technology from the ACCEL project will be applied to its products for these new markets. The company says that 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). 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.