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RR. "Spirit of Innovation" all electric aircraft took to the skies for the first time

For approximately 15 minutes

Rolls Royce (RR) announced the completion of the first flight of its all-electric "Spirit of Innovation" aircraft. At 14:56 (BST) last 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. This is another step towards the plane’s world-record attempt and another milestone on the aviation industry’s journey towards decarbonisation.

The airplane 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 in which it 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. The team have continued to innovate while adhering to the UK Government’s social distancing and other health guidelines.

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. 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.

RR is offering its customers a complete electric propulsion system for their platform, whether that is an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) or commuter aircraft. It 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). 

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.

In June, RR announced its pathway to net zero carbon emissions –a year on from joining the UN Race to Zero campaign– and the "Spirit of Innovation" is one way in which it is helping decarbonise the critical parts of the global economy in which it operates. The industry is committed to ensuring its new products will be compatible with net zero operation by 2030 and all its ones will be compatible with net zero by 2050.

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AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency
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