Rolls-Royce’s All-Electric Spirit of Innovation Aircraft Takes Off for First Time

(18 Sep 2021)
Rolls-Royce’s all-electric ‘Spirit of Innovation’
aircraft completed its maiden flight on Wednesday.

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.

The flight is
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.”


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, collecting
valuable performance data on the aircraft’s electrical power and
propulsion system.

Kwasi Kwarteng, UK’s Business Secretary, 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.”


Cockpit of Rolls-Royce’s all-electric ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft. Click to enlarge.

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.

“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.”

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