Rolls-Royce electric plane takes maiden flight
Rolls-Royce has announced the successful completion of the first flight of their Spirit of Innovation aircraft, which is powered entirely by electricity. This represents a significant step forward in the effort to decarbonize transportation in order to achieve net zero emissions.
After taking to the skies propelled by its powerful 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain, which included the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft, the plane landed safely. This is a significant step forward in the plane’s attempt to set a world record, as well as a significant milestone in the aviation industry’s journey towards decarbonisation.
“The first flight of the Spirit of Innovation is a tremendous accomplishment for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce,” said Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce. We are focused on producing the technological breakthroughs that society requires to decarbonize transportation across all modes of transportation, including air, land, and sea, as well as capturing the economic opportunity that comes with the transition to net zero emissions.
“This isn’t just about setting a world record; the advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this program has exciting applications in the urban air mobility market and may even contribute to the realization of the goal of “jet zero.”
In a statement released by Rolls-Royce, the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “The first flight of Rolls-revolutionary Royce’s Spirit of Innovation aircraft marks a significant step forward in the global transition to cleaner forms of flight.” This achievement, as well as the records we hope to set in the future, demonstrates that the United Kingdom remains at the forefront of aerospace innovation.
“By supporting projects such as this one, the government is assisting in the advancement of boundary-pushing technologies that will leverage investment and unlock the cleaner, greener aircraft that will be required to end our contribution to climate change.”
The aircraft took off from the Boscombe Down site of the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, which is managed by QinetiQ, and flew for approximately 15 minutes before landing. There is a long history of experimental flights at the site, and the first flight marks the beginning of a rigorous flight-testing phase during which the company will collect valuable performance data on the aircraft’s electrical power and propulsion systems, among other things.
A number of key partners are involved in the ACCEL program, which is short for Accelerating the Electrification of Flight. These include YASA, an electric motor and controller manufacturer, and aviation start-up Electroflight.
The Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK, is providing half of the project’s funding, with the other half coming from the government. Ahead of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26), the ACCEL program provides further evidence of the United Kingdom’s position at the forefront of the zero-emission aircraft revolution.
Gary Elliott, President and CEO of the Aerospace Technology Institute, said, “The Spirit of Innovation’s first flight demonstrates how innovative technology can provide solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.” ACCEL is one of the projects funded by the ATI, which aims to assist the United Kingdom in developing new capabilities and securing a leadership position in the technologies that will decarbonise aviation.
Apart from that, Rolls-Royce and airframer Tecnam are currently collaborating with Widere, the largest regional airline in Scandinavia, on the development of an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market, which is expected to enter service in 2026.
Following a year of participation in the United Nations Race to Zero campaign, the company announced its plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions in June. According to the company, the Spirit of Innovation is one of the ways in which they are assisting in the decarbonisation of the critical parts of the global economy in which they are involved. Our goal is to have all of our products be compatible with net-zero operation by 2030, and to have all of our products be compatible with net-zero operation by 2050.