UK-based global major industrial technology and propulsion systems group Rolls-Royce announced on Friday that the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aeroplane had set new world records for an all-electric aircraft. The new records have to be confirmed by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the world body responsible for certifying world aeronautical and astronautical records.
On Tuesday, November 16, at 15h45 Greenwich Mean Time, the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ hit a top speed of 555.9 km/h and maintained it over a distance of 3 km. This exceeded the previous record by 213.04 km/h. In subsequent flights, the aircraft reached, and maintained over a distance of 15 kilometres, a speed of 532.1 km/h, which surpassed the previous such record by 292.8 km/h. And it also broke the time to climb from the ground to 3 000 m by a full minute, taking only 202 seconds to reach the target altitude. All the test flights were flown at the UK Ministry of Defence’s world-renowned Boscombe Down experimental aircraft test establishment.
The ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is the product of the Rolls-Royce-led ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight) programme. The other main industrial participants in ACCEL are UK electric drive technology company YASA (part of the Mercedes-Benz group) and British bespoke aerospace battery systems, technology and engineering services company Electroflight. In addition, Jaguar Land Rover (a subsidiary of India’s Tata Group) loaned all-electric Jaguar I-PACE cars for use as ground towing and support vehicles, while luxury watchmaker Bremont was the official timer of the record flights. The ACCEL programme was 50%-funded jointly by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), which is a public-private initiative between government and industry, the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Innovate UK (a British government funding research and development agency).
The test pilot who flew the record flights was Rolls-Royce Flight Operations director Phill O’Dell. “Flying the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ at these incredible speeds and believing we have broken the world-record for all-electric flight is a momentous occasion,” he enthused. “This is the highlight of my career and is an incredible achievement for the whole team. The opportunity to be at the forefront of another pioneering chapter of Rolls-Royce’s story as we look to deliver the future of aviation is what dreams are made of.”
“The ACCEL project demonstrates that strategic investment in UK technology and innovation can achieve extraordinary world-beating results, and sets us firmly on the path to decarbonising passenger flight in the future,” affirmed ATI CEO Gary Elliott. “This achievement of Rolls-Royce, Electroflight and YASA will resonate for many years to come and inspire the next generation of aerospace engineers.”
“Staking the claim for the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce,” highlighted Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East. “I would like to thank our partners and especially Electroflight for their collaboration in achieving this pioneering breakthrough. The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility market.”