Rolls-Royce's all-electric Spirit of Innovation flies for the first time
Rolls-Royce's high-speed, all-electric Spirit of Innovation aircraft has flown for the first time. On September 15, 2021 at 2:56 pm BST, the speedster prop plane took off from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site outside Amesbury, Wiltshire, England for a 15-minute flight.
The first flight comes over six months after its first taxi trials and over a year later than its originally scheduled takeoff. The program will now move into a more intense flight-testing phase to collect data about the aircraft's electric power and propulsion system performance, and will culminate in an attempt to fly at over 300 mph (480 km/h).
Part of the Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACEL) program, the Spirit of Innovation is being developed by Rolls-Royce to not only set a new electric-propelled air-speed record, but also to push the development of eVTOL air taxis.
Inside the sleek streamlined hull that harks back to the classic racing planes of the 1930s is what Rolls-Royce claims is the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft. This consists of a battery pack of 6,000 cells that punch 400 kW (536 bhp) at 750 V through the electric powertrain and could reach a maximum output of 750 kW (1,000 bhp) with an Active Thermal Management System Cooling radiator to keep the system from overheating.
The batteries run three YASA 750R lightweight e-motors to turn the trio of electrically-actuated blades of the single propeller spinning at 2,400 RPM for a more stable ride and an energy efficiency of up to 90 percent. In addition, sensors monitor performance from 20,000 points in the powertrain.
"The first flight of the Spirit of Innovation is a great achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce," Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce. "We are focused on producing the technology breakthroughs society needs to decarbonize 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 program has exciting applications for the Urban Air Mobility market and can help make 'jet zero' a reality."
The video below shows the Spirit of Innovation taking off.