Rolls-Royce’s first all-electric aircraft completes maiden flight
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Rolls-Royce’s first all-electric aircraft has completed its maiden flight ahead of a world record attempt later this year. The ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft took off from the Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site, in Wiltshire, and flew for approximately 15 minutes.
The first flight marks the beginning of an intense testing phase for the Spirit of Innovation, which is hoping to reach speeds of more than 300mph.
With its powerful 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain and the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft, the Spirit of Innovation represents a significant step towards all-electric aircraft becoming a regular feature of our skies and on the aviation industry’s journey towards decarbonisation.
In June, the aerospace giant announced plans to create hundreds of jobs as part of an £80m project to develop storage units for future generations of electric planes.
The technology for the plane has been developed at Gloucestershire Airport by the ACCEL – or Accelerating the Electrification of Flight – programme. Partners include Oxford-based electric motor and controller manufacturer YASA and aviation start-up Electroflight in Gloucestershire.
Warren East, chief executive of Rolls-Royce, said: “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.”
Half of the project’s funding is being provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Innovate UK.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The first flight of Rolls-Royce’s revolutionary Spirit of Innovation aircraft signals a huge step forward in the global transition to cleaner forms of flight. This achievement, and the records we hope will follow, shows the UK remains right at the forefront of aerospace innovation.
“By backing projects like this one, the Government is helping to drive forward the boundary pushing technologies that will leverage investment and unlock the cleaner, greener aircraft required to end our contribution to climate change.”
Rolls-Royce is looking to build on the Spirit of Innovation’s success and attempt to set a new world record for electric flight speed later this year. The current record stands at 210mph, but Rolls-Royce believes it will be able to surpass 300mph.