All-Electric Aircraft from Rolls-Royce Completes Maiden Flight

Defence Industry

London: Rolls-Royce’s first all-electric aircraft completed a 15-minute maiden flight, in the UK this week. In a statement, the company said the aircraft’s trip marked “the beginning of an intense flight-testing phase” that would involve the collection of performance data on its electrical power and propulsion system.

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According to Rolls-Royce, the airplane — dubbed the “Spirit of Innovation” — utilized a 400 kilowatt electric powertrain “with the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft.” Eventually, the firm wants the aircraft’s speed to exceed 300 miles per hour.

The Spirit of Innovation is the result of a program called ACCEL, or Accelerating the Electrification of Flight. Partners in the initiative include electric motor and controller specialist YASA and Electroflight, which Rolls-Royce described as an “aviation start-up.” YASA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz.

In terms of funding, 50% has come from the Aerospace Technology Institute in partnership with the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.

In a statement issued alongside Rolls-Royce’s announcement, UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the aircraft’s flight was “a huge step forward in the global transition to cleaner forms of flight.”

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Looking ahead, Rolls-Royce — not to be confused with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, which is owned by BMW —said it would use and apply tech from ACCEL in products connected to the commuter aircraft and electric vertical takeoff and landing markets.

Alongside aircraft manufacturer Tecnam, Rolls-Royce is also working with Norway-headquartered airline Wideroe on the delivery of “an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market.”

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