Rolls Royce has announced the completion of the first flight of the all-electric ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft.
It is propelled by a 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain with the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft. The milestone marks 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: “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.”
This first flight marks the beginning of an intense flight-testing phase in which Rolls Royce 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 U
“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.
Rolls-Royce says it is offering customers a complete electric propulsion system for their platform, whether that is an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) or commuter aircraft. “We 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 we are targeting in our 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.
Rolls Royce joined the UN Race to Zero campaign and says the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is one way in which the organization is helping decarbonise the critical parts of the global economy in which it operates.