Rolls Royce is not a newcomer to the world of aviation: it has always been known for its jet engines. However, in a new turn of events, the British luxury auto manufacturer has announced the completion of the maiden voyage of its all-electric aircraft.
Aptly named the ‘Spirit of Innovation,’ the one-seat aeroplane took off from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site and flew for approximately 15minutes, a flight that “marks the beginning of an intense flight-testing phase in which we will be collecting valuable performance data on the aircraft’s electrical power and propulsion system,” explains Rolls Royce in an official statement.
The plane flew using a 6,000 cell battery pack that delivers “400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain with the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft.” Rolls Royce is working to ensure that the batteries will cause the Spirit of Innovation to reach speeds of 300+mph/480+kmh.
This maiden flight is happening a year after it was scheduled to take place and about six months after taxi trials. Rolls Royce is also working with airframer Tecnam and Scandinavian regional airline, Widerøe, to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market, which is planned to be ready for revenue service in 2026.
The Spirit of Innovation is the result of a program called ACCEL which is short for Accelerating the Electrification of Flight, with half of the funding coming from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.
With talks of the dangers of carbon emission and climate change, an electric-powered aircraft is a welcome development. However, getting a plane to fly on batteries is just the first step. Solving the problem of balancing the weight of the plane on batteries with that of the passengers is a greater hurdle to surmount. It will be interesting to see how Rolls Royce will achieve this.
Source: Rolls Royce