Science & Technology

Rolls-Royce ‘Spirit of Innovation’ All-Electric Aircraft Smashes World Records in Latest Flight

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Rolls-Royce has been working on an all-electric plane, called “Spirit of Innovation,” and the automaker reports that the aircraft absolutely clobbered at least three world records in their latest test flights. For an aircraft that’s only been in the air for a few hours total, that’s pretty impressive — this report comes not quite two months after the aircraft took off for its maiden flight.

After the flights, the company announced: “We have submitted data to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) – the World Air Sports Federation who control and certify world aeronautical and astronautical records – that at 15:45 (GMT) on 16 November 2021, the aircraft reached a top speed of 555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over 3 kilometres, smashing the existing record by 213.04 km/h (132mph).”

They go on to say that the day’s later test flights also belong in the record books. While they didn’t push the rest of the later flights quite as fast, at least one still hit 330mph. They also report breaking the fastest time to climb to 3km altitude by an entire minute, clocking in at a final 202 seconds, as well as breaking two other speed records over distances of three and fifteen km, respectively. The flights took place at the UK Ministry of Defense’s Boscombe Downs aerodrome: an airfield not unlike Edwards AFB, used for testing new and experimental aircraft.

Spirit of Ingenuity uses liquid-cooled Li-ion batteries, and a 400kW power train developed with partners Electroflight and YASA, also of the UK. The single-seat aircraft has an ultralight carbon-fiber hull, and while it boasts the ability to put forth 500+ hp, it can land with two of its three batteries disabled.

While this one plane won’t revolutionize the industry, it does provide much-needed data for the idea of urban and commuter aircraft. “The characteristics that ‘air-taxis’ require from batteries,” said Rolls-Royce, “are very similar to what was developed for the Spirit of Innovation.”

The company added, “The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this programme has exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility market.”

There’s even a practical angle to the development of all-electric aircraft. The UK’s Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “The government is proud to back projects like this to leverage the private investment necessary to unlock cleaner, greener aircraft which will allow people to fly as they do now, but in a way that cuts emissions.” R-R CEO Warren East added, “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.”

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