Rolls-Royce’s all-electric plane takes to skies for first time

Aircraft took off from the UK's Boscombe Down military testing site and flew for about 15 minutes

Rolls-Royce's Spirit of Innovation plane took to the skies on Wednesday for a 15-minute maiden flight in a step towards a record for the world's fastest electric aircraft.

The plane took off just before 3pm from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down military testing site, using the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft.

The test flight is also another step in the aviation industry’s journey towards decarbonisation.

“The first flight of the Spirit of Innovation is a great achievement for the Accel team and Rolls-Royce," said Warren East, chief executive of 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 plane is driven by a 500-horse power (400-kilowatt) electric powertrain.

“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," said British Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

"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.”

Rolls-Royce is offering its customers a complete electric propulsion system for their aircraft, whether it is an electric vertical takeoff and landing craft or a commuter plane.

The company will use technology from its Accel project and apply it to new products.

The Spirit of Innovation's battery is being developed to give the plane speeds of more than 480kph, which is the target for the aircraft’s world record attempt.

Rolls-Royce and air-framer Tecnam are also working with Wideroe, the largest regional airline in Scandinavia, to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft, which is planned to be ready for service in 2026.

In June, Rolls-Royce announced its plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions, a year after joining the UN Race to Zero campaign.

The company aims to be a net-zero operation by 2030 with all products compatible by 2050.

Updated: September 15th 2021, 9:46 PM
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