Rolls-Royce has completed ground testing the systems in the Spirit of Innovation technology demonstrator aircraft, which it will use in an attempt to break the world record for the fastest all-electric airplane next year.
The £6.37 million (US$8.3 million) ACCEL (accelerating the electrification of flight) program’s Spirit of Innovation aircraft uses electric motors and controllers from YASA and aviation startup Electroflight. Rolls-Royce plans to set the world record for the fastest electric aircraft in the world by achieving a target speed of more than 300mph (480km/h) early next year. The aircraft was originally revealed in January this year.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the fastest the world’s fastest aircraft powered by an electric motor is the Extra 330LE which during a flight on 23 March 2017 in Germany reached a top-speed of 213.04 mph (342.86 km/h).
As part of the program, Rolls-Royce engineers have first developed the ionBird test airframe, a full-scale replica of the plane’s core, for ground testing the propulsion technology. This included a 500hp electric powertrain powerful enough to set world speed records and a battery with enough energy to supply 250 homes, said the company.
During nine months of ground testing the propeller was run up to full speed, around 2,400 rpm, using what Rolls-Royce claims is the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for aircraft propulsion. Over 6,000 cells are packaged in the battery and when at full power during flight testing it will propel the aircraft to more than 300mph setting a new world speed record for electric flight.
Many gigabytes of data every hour were also generated during testing, which the team have analyzed to improve performance wherever possible. In addition, engineers and test pilots optimized the system and developed operating procedures for electric flight.
Engineers will next integrate the systems into the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft ahead of flight tests and the world-record attempt. The first flight is planned to take place in the next three months.