Rolls-Royce is developing an all-electric plane that will be aiming for the record books with a target speed of over 300 mph (480 km). Inspiring tomorrow’s scientists and engineers is a key aim of the company’s Accelerating the Electrification of Flight (ACCEL) program, which is behind the “Spirit of Innovation” aircraft. To help achieve this, Rolls-Royce is launching a competition to design the helmet that its test pilot will be wearing throughout flight-testing and for the world-record attempt.
Rolls-Royce will be working with fly2help, a charity that supports efforts to get young people thinking about a possible career in aviation. There will be two categories, one for ages five to 11 and one for ages 12 to 18. The winners will have their design jointly inspire the final design applied to the helmet. The winners will also get the opportunity to see the plane for themselves and meet Rolls-Royce test pilot and director of flight operations Phill O’Dell and the wider engineering team. “The opportunity to fly our all-electric ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft for the world-record attempt will be the pinnacle of my career; not only because it represents being at the forefront of advanced electrical technology, but because of the fantastic opportunity it gives us to inspire the next generation of aviation pioneers,” said O’Dell.
For many years, Rolls-Royce has recognized the importance of engaging young people to consider careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The company has over 1400 STEM Ambassadors and partnerships with organizations such as the Scouts and Code First Girls. In addition to this competition, Rolls-Royce has developed downloadable materials aimed at primary school children around the ACCEL project. The materials are linked to curriculums in the United Kingdom for similar fields of study. “The Spirit of Innovation aircraft will be one-of-a-kind, so it is only fitting that the helmet I wear should also be unique, reflecting the pioneering nature of the project,” said O’Dell. “I have worked with fly2help for many years to showcase the exciting career options available in aviation, so it made sense to work with them on this competition.”
“We are delighted to be supporting the Rolls-Royce ‘Design a Helmet’ competition,” said fly2help Charity Manager, Sharon Walters. “The all-electric world-record attempt is an incredible opportunity to demonstrate the exciting opportunities in aviation which is a key aim of fly2help as we look to encourage children’s future career ambitions.”
The ACCEL program includes key partners YASA, an electric motor and controller manufacturer, and aviation start-up Electroflight. The ACCEL team has continued to innovate while adhering to the UK Government’s social distancing and other health guidelines. Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Innovate UK.
According to Rolls-Royce, Spirit of Innovation will have the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft, providing enough energy to fuel 250 homes or fly from London to Paris on a single charge. The characteristics that air taxis require from batteries are very similar to what is being developed for the “Spirit of Innovation” so it can reach record-breaking speeds. Rolls-Royce will be using the technology from the project and applying it to products for the market.