A multi-aircraft pilot from Switzerland, Raphaël Domjan just became the first person to jump off a solar-powered electronic airplane earlier this week. The aircraft he used is a stratospheric plane manufactured by the SolarStratos project, of which he is the founder and pilot. Domjan also indulges in piloting gliders, planes, and helicopters while being skilled in mountaineering and parachuting.
Raphaël Domjan has always been passionate about exploration and adventures. He is an eco-explorer and a speaker now who is committed towards promoting solar energy to fight climate change and environmental deterioration, and to promote biodiversity through his SolarPlanet Foundation.
The multi-talented humanitarian’s host of achievements began in 2001 when he co-founded the Horus Networks Sàrl as the first solar internet host of the world. Three years later, he started PlanetSolar, the first solar-powered circumnavigational system. In 2007, the PlanetSolar Foundation was co-founded by him to promote solar energy as he served as president of the initiative too.
By 2012, he was leading the world’s first expeditions using the PlanetSolar circumnavigational system. The next year, his team earned the 5th place at the World Advanced Vehicle Expedition (WAVE) for a journey from Vienna to Zurich. Another two years later, Domjan was able to use PlanetSolar for the first solar-powered polar navigation in the Northwest Passage of the Arctic Ocean. The same year, Domjan founded SolarStratos as a mission with a quest “To (reach) the edge of space” and fly a solar-powered plane in the stratospheric layer of the Earth’s atmosphere – a feat that would require him to wear a pressurized space suit to prevent pressurizing the aircraft, thereby reducing its weight and making the flight possible.
This year, he was able to conduct the first skydive from the two-seater prototype plane when it reached a height of 1,520m (5,000ft). The plane is covered in 22sqm (237sqft) of solar panels that provides the aircraft with electricity. Domjan dove from the plane at a height of 5,000ft and reached a speed of 93mph (150kmph) before he released his parachute. The dive ended in a safe landing at Payerne, Switzerland.
The idea behind this dive was to change the landscape of air sports and reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Domjan says, “I hope that this will continue to make the young people of tomorrow dream, thanks to aircraft that are more respectful of our planet and our climate.”
The team is now planning the world’s first solar-powered flight to the stratosphere with plans of completion by 2022.
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