Aircraft

Rolls-Royce's all-electric Spirit of Innovation flies for the first time

Rolls-Royce's all-electric Spi...
The Spirit of Innovation taking off
The Spirit of Innovation taking off
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The Spirit of Innovation is part of the ACCEL project
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The Spirit of Innovation is part of the ACCEL project
The Spirit of Innovation is beginning an intense testing program
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The Spirit of Innovation is beginning an intense testing program
The Spirit of Innovation showing its lines
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The Spirit of Innovation showing its lines
Front view of the Spirit of Innovation
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Front view of the Spirit of Innovation
Rendering of the Spirit of Innovation
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Rendering of the Spirit of Innovation
The Spirit of Innovation will aim to break the electric air speed record
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The Spirit of Innovation will aim to break the electric air speed record
Closeup of the powertrain
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Closeup of the powertrain
Spirit of Innovation infographic
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Spirit of Innovation infographic
The Spirit of Innovation landing
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The Spirit of Innovation landing
The Spirit of Innovation has a 6,000-cell battery
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The Spirit of Innovation has a 6,000-cell battery
The Spirit of Innovation in the hangar
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The Spirit of Innovation in the hangar
The Spirit of Innovation has a 1930s profile
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The Spirit of Innovation has a 1930s profile
The Spirit of Innovation showing off its powertrain
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The Spirit of Innovation showing off its powertrain
Rolls-Royce Spirit of
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Rolls-Royce Spirit of Innovation
The Spirit of Innovation over Wiltshire
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The Spirit of Innovation over Wiltshire
The Spirit of Innovation taking off
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The Spirit of Innovation taking off
The first flight Spirit of Innovation flew at Boscombe Down on Wednesday 15th of September 2021
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The first flight Spirit of Innovation flew at Boscombe Down on Wednesday 15th of September 2021
The Spirit of Innovation on the tarmac
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The Spirit of Innovation on the tarmac
View gallery - 18 images

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.

The Spirit of Innovation is beginning an intense testing program
The Spirit of Innovation is beginning an intense testing program

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.

Innovation

Source: Rolls-Royce

View gallery - 18 images
14 comments
14 comments
David
Do you suppose Rolls Royce chose the polluted contrail-crossed sky for the second photo/rendering to highlight that with e-planes there will be no such muck in the skies.
anthony88
Does the plane have a camera underneath it so the pilot can see where the plane is going during takeoff and landing?
minivini
Anthony88 - probably not. The pilot uses visual cues from the side views until the tail develops lift. This has been the way “tail draggers” have been flown since the beginning.
Bimmermaven
Hmmmm...with 6000 cells, I suppose they have 1 sensor each.
I wonder where/ what the other 14,000 sensors are monitoring on what we would think is a simpler drivetrain vs conventional propeller systems.
And given my experience with automotive sensor failures, I assume these are more robust...
So, is there a big negative here?
Username
Rolls-Royce using a Jaquar to pull their plane!
GregVoevodsky
Very noisy for an electric plane.
BlueOak
Cool stuff - to see and hear. And demonstrates how much of the noise of a prop-driven plane is the prop itself vs ICE engined plane.
pete-y
don't get the 'three YASA 750R lightweight e-motors to turn the trio of electrically-actuated blades of the single propeller' - how do you turn three blades separately when they are one unit? Are they pitch controllers on each blade.?
Lamar Havard
Gorgeous plane! Reminds me of the Corsair, but for the straight wings.
bwklast1
Seriously, electric doesn't decarbonize anything it just kicks the can down the road.
Range and range deterioration over time is going to be a massive problem and it isn't like you can just land anywhere.....
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