British luxury automaker and engineering company Rolls-Royce says it has completed the maiden flight of its all-electric ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft, boasting a powerful 400kW electric powertrain with what the company claims is “the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft.”
The Rolls-Royce ‘Spirit of Innovation’ took off from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site on September 15 and completed a flight of approximately 15 minutes. The landmark test comes several months after the company successfully taxied the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ along a runway.
The ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is being developed under the banner of Rolls-Royce’s Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL) programme, which includes key partners YASA, the electric motor and controller manufacturer, and aviation start-up Electroflight.
Rolls-Royce hopes that the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ will be able to reach speeds over 480km/h (300mph) – a target the company is aiming to hit as part of a world record attempt.
“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,” said Warren East, the CEO of Rolls-Royce.
“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.”
Funding for the ACCEL project comes in part from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.
“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,” added Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. “This achievement, and the records we hope will follow, shows the UK remains right at the forefront of aerospace innovation.
The ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is also part of Rolls-Royce’s plans to offer customers a complete electric propulsion system platform, which can be used in either a commuter aircraft or an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
According to Rolls-Royce, the battery characteristics eVTOL air-taxis require are very similar to that being developed for the ‘Spirit of Innovation’.
Further, Rolls-Royce is working with airframer Tecnam and Widerøe, the largest regional airline in Scandinavia, to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for the company’s commuter market, which is planned to be ready for revenue service in 2026.