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Industry-leading British aerospace manufacturer Rolls-Royce has announced that it has begun constructing the world’s largest aircraft engine. Having already developed the popular ‘Trent’ engine family, it has also made a start on the demonstrator for its new ‘UltraFan.’ It hopes that the 140-inch (3.5 m) wide engine will be complete by the end of the year.

Rolls Royce UltraFan
Rolls-Royce hopes to complete its UltraFan demonstrator by the end of the year. Image: Rolls-Royce

Construction begins

Rolls-Royce confirmed today that it has started to build the demonstrator engine for its upcoming ‘UltraFan‘ family. This will be the world’s largest aircraft engine, with the fan measuring 140 inches (3.5 m) wide. With support from both the British and German governments, parts are under construction in Bristol and Dahlewitz. These will be delivered to its DemoWorks facility in Derby. Rolls-Royce President Chris Cholerton stated:

This is an exciting moment for all of us at Rolls-Royce. (…) It is arriving at a time when the world is seeking ever more sustainable ways to travel in a post-COVID-19 world, and it makes me and all our team very proud to know we are part of the solution.”

Rolls Royce UltraFan
The Ultra Fan will be the world’s largest engine. Photo: Rolls-Royce

The news comes just over two months after Rolls-Royce announced that it had completed the first engine run on its new £90 million ($125 million) testbed. Known as Testbed 80, this is the largest facility of its kind in the world. Once the UltraFan demonstrator is complete, Rolls-Royce will run data-driven tests of the engine on this facility.

Rolls-Royce UltraFan
A CGI rendering of the complex inner workings of the Rolls-Royce UltraFan. Image: Rolls-Royce

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Targeting efficiency and sustainability

Rolls-Royce’s goals for the new engine are largely centered around its efficiency and sustainability. For example, it wants the UltraFan family to “deliver a 25% fuel efficiency improvement compared with the first generation of Trent engine.” Interestingly, the company is hoping to see these powerplants deployed on both narrowbody and widebody aircraft. Regarding the drive for a more sustainable aviation industry, it states:

UltraFan’s efficiency will help improve the economics of an industry transition to more sustainable fuels, which are likely to be more expensive in the short-term than traditional jet fuel. The first test run of the engine will be conducted on 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel.”

Rolls-Royce, UltraFan, Testbed 80
Rolls-Royce will use its new Testbed 80 facility to run the UltraFan demonstrator. Photo: Rolls-Royce

Data-driven testing

As well as the engine’s advantages in terms of efficiency and sustainability, it will also offer engineers numerous technological advantages. These will be prevalent even during the testing phase of the engine’s lifespan. Rolls-Royce notes that:


Each fan blade has a digital twin which stores real-life test data, allowing engineers to predict in-service performance. When on test at Rolls-Royce’s new £90m Testbed 80 facility, data can be taken from more than 10,000 parameters, detecting the tiniest of vibrations at a rate of up to 200,000 samples per second.”

Rolls-Royce UltraFan Lego
Rolls-Royce has already created a mock UltraFan using Lego. Photo: Rolls-Royce

The availability of such a wealth of data during testing will help Rolls-Royce to further develop the engine over the course of this process. This represents a strong investment on the company’s part in the future of engine technology. It will be fascinating to see how construction pans out, not to mention the completed demonstrator by the end of the year.

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