Rolls-Royce to Work with Airframe Manufacturers, Seek Partners for EVTOL Project
Rolls-Royce in London is unveiling a concept electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL ) vehicle, including civil and military variants, that could take to the skies as soon as the early 2020s. The flexible design – able to be adapted for a variety of applications, including personal transport, public transport, logistics, and defense – is based upon technologies currently in use and under development.
“Electrification is an exciting and inescapable trend across industrial technology markets and while the move to more electric propulsion will be gradual for us, it will ultimately be a revolution,” says Rob Watson, who heads up Rolls-Royce’s Electrical team. “Building on our existing expertise in electric technologies and aviation, Rolls-Royce is actively exploring a range of possible markets and applications for electric and hybrid electric flight. We are well placed to play a leading role in the emerging world of personal air mobility and will also look to work in collaboration with a range of partners.”
Company officials plan to work in collaboration with airframe manufacturers and to seek a range of strategic partners for aspects of the electrical system in advance of any commercial introduction of the EVTOL. “We believe that given the work we are doing today to develop hybrid electric propulsion capabilities, this model could be available by the early to mid-2020s, provided that a viable commercial model for its introduction can be created,” officials say.
The Rolls-Royce EVTOL project, presented at Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, England, this week, is part of the company’s strategy to “champion electrification” as a provider of hybrid-electric propulsion, and builds upon its expertise in gas turbines, VTOL technology, systems analytics, and aerospace regulation and certification.
The initial concept vehicle uses gas turbine technology to generate electricity to power six electric propulsors specially designed to have a low noise profile. In this hybrid-EVTOL configuration, it could carry four or five passengers at speeds up to 250 miles per hour (mph) for approximately 500 miles. The gas turbine would also charge the battery, used for energy storage. The aircraft would be able to utilize existing infrastructure, such as heliports and airports.
The wings are able to rotate 90 degrees, enabling the vehicle to take off or land vertically. The propellers on the wing could fold away once the craft has reached cruising height, reducing drag and cabin noise, with the craft relying upon the two rear propellers for thrust.
The EVTOL or personal air mobility market is emerging in response to: technological advances, a need to meet the demands that will be placed upon conventional transport systems as more of the world’s population lives in large cities plagued by congestion, and requirements for more efficient travel with fewer emissions.
“Rolls-Royce has a strong track record as pioneers in aviation. From developing the first turbo-prop and jet engines, to creating the world’s most efficient large civil aero-engine and vertical take-off and landing solutions, we have a very strong pedigree,” Watson adds. “As the third generation of aviation begins to dawn, it’s time to be pioneers yet again.”
The initial Rolls-Royce EVTOL concept uses a Rolls-Royce M250 gas turbine which is embedded within the rear of the aircraft and modified as part of a hybrid electric propulsion system. The M250 has powered more than 170 different helicopter and fixed-wing civil and military applications, with the whole fleet having clocked up more than 250 million flying hours, and more than 31,000 M250 engines have been delivered since the first version entered service over half a century ago, with an estimated 16,000 currently in service.
The Rolls-Royce EVTOL concept
- Flexible aircraft platform for personal, commercial passenger, cargo and military applications
- Tilting wings for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL)
- At cruise height the propellers on the wing fold away to reduce drag and cabin noise, the craft then uses the two rear propellers for thrust
- Versatile 4/5 seat cabin
- Range 500 miles, cruise speed 250 mph
- M250-based hybrid propulsion system
- The M250 hybrid electric engine will deliver approx. 500kW electrical power
- High energy density battery to provide additional climb power
- 6 propulsion/lift motors with embedded power electronics
- Offering customers new capability at vehicle, system, and component level
Courtney E. Howard is editorial director and content strategist at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group. Contact her by e-mail at