Latest News | 23 November 2021

Rolls-Royce stakes claim for all-electric flight world speed record

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Rolls-Royce has said it believes its battery powered plane – the Spirit of Innovation – has broken the world record for the fastest all-electric flight.

The firm has reported that the plane took off from the Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site in Wiltshire and reached a top speed of 345.4mph over three kilometres, breaking the existing record by 132mph.

The engineering giant, which has its civil aerospace and defence divisions in Derby, has now submitted the data to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) – the World Air Sports Federation, which controls and certifies world aeronautical and astronautical records, for approval.

The firm said in further runs, the plane reached 330mph over 15 kilometres – 182mph faster than the previous record – and broke the fastest time to climb to 3,000 metres by 60 seconds with a time of 202 seconds. During the flight runs, the aircraft clocked up a top speed of 387.4mph.

Warren East, chief executive at Rolls-Royce, said: “Staking the claim for the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce.”

The ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is part of the ACCEL or ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’ project, with Rolls-Royce working in partnership with aviation energy storage specialist Electroflight and automotive powertrain supplier YASA.

Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.

The aircraft was propelled on its record-breaking runs by a 400kW electric powertrain and the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace.

The plane was flown over three kilometres by the project’s chief test pilot Phill O’Dell, who was in the Royal Air Force for 17 years.

Steve Jones flew the aircraft for the 15km and the time to climb to 3,000 metres record runs that have been submitted.

Mr O’Dell said: “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.

“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.”

Rolls-Royce’s involvement in the ACCEL project is just one of the ways in which the firm is looking to make aviation more sustainable.

In June, the company announced its pathway to net zero carbon emissions – a year on from joining the UN Race to Zero campaign – committing to ensure its new products will be compatible with net zero operation by 2030 and all its products will be compatible with net zero by 2050.

Mr East said: “Following the world’s focus on the need for action at COP26, this is another milestone that will help make ‘jet zero’ a reality and supports our ambitions to deliver the technology breakthroughs society needs to decarbonise transport across air, land and sea.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Rolls-Royce’s revolutionary Spirit of Innovation aircraft is yet more proof of the UK’s enviable credentials when it comes to innovation.

“This record will show the potential of electric flight and help to unlock the technologies that could make it part of everyday life.”

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