Rolls-Royce has confirmed that it is using a ground-based testbed to evaluate plans for electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems that it may develop for eVTOL aircraft. The aircraft engines group issued a statement on its plans after images and video appeared online via Reddit on October 13 showing a large-scale, tiltwing eVTOL aircraft with six propellers. By October 16, the video had been removed from Reddit.
A spokeswoman for Rolls-Royce told FutureFlight that its engineering team is involved in work at Cranfield University’s Aerospace Integration Research Centre that involves a “research rig aimed at helping us to understand the propulsion system requirements for future electric and hybrid-electric aircraft.”
In 2019, Rolls-Royce acquired the eAircraft electric motors unit of Germany’s Siemens group. At the time, this move appeared to be linked to its plans to advance electric propulsion for larger aircraft through programs such as the E-Fan cooperation with Airbus, but this project was abandoned earlier this year.
“Following the acquisition of Siemens' eAircraft business, we are now firmly focusing our efforts on developing all-electric and hybrid-electric propulsion system technology that can be used across a range of aircraft including eVTOLs,” said Rolls-Royce in a statement on October 15. “Any commercial introduction of an eVTOL powered by a Rolls-Royce system will involve working in collaboration with a range of strategic partners such as airframers, energy storage, electric motor and power electronics specialists and avionics companies.”
The engine maker has not issued any specific timeline for its plans in the eVTOL sector. Separately, it is also working on a project called Accel, which involves using a new battery pack to power a light aircraft that it hopes to fly at more than 300 mph in order to set a new speed record for an all-electric aircraft.