Raphael Domjan Initiator & Pilot Solar Stratos

BCI: Where did the Solar Stratos idea come from and would you please tell us about this plane?

RD: The idea was born when I crossed the pacific ocean aboard PlanetSolar, I was wondering what I could do once our successful adventure was more ambitious than the first round the world with solar energy. At night in the middle of the South Pacific, the Milky Way is bright and every minute a shooting star passes over your head. This is where the idea of trying to reach the stratosphere with solar energy was born. Making the I care dream come true 4000 years later

What are the key steps to initiate a startup like SolarStratos?

Find the idea Carry out a feasibility study Bring together a team and skills Find the financial means and technical partners Succeed You are trying to achieve something that has not been done before. What is the main disruptor you have encountered so far? The goal is to achieve something that has never been attempted, but with existing technologies. At this stage, we have not yet really made a break or disruptor in our adventure. But we learn a lot every day.

Did the COVID-19 pandemic have any effect on this project?

The Covid19 made our life more difficult of course, but we are explorers, and we try to use this difficulty as an advantage. It seems you are very dedicated to using renewable energy in your projects.

Why is it important to use solar power rather than fossil fuels globally?

We are currently burning 300 tonnes of fossil fuel per second. First of all, it is not sustainable and also dangerous for our climate. We want to show that we can achieve incredible things thanks to renewable energies and electricity Technically speaking, there are some formidable concerns about high-altitude solar-powered aircraft, such as that their aerostructures become very fragile due to high power/weight requirements.

What would be your technical team’s modern approach vis-a-vis those challenges different from legacy work?

We want to fly at high altitudes with a light aircraft, which must consume little energy and therefore fly slowly. We think outside the box and learn with my team and our technical partners every day how to solve complex problems. It’s exciting.

Would you think in the future about maybe enrichening your approach by also considering hydrogen energy alternatives, despite its own challenges?

We are always open to new technologies, hydrogen is one of the solutions of the future for the aviation of the future. But its use is not appropriate for our project. We know that fearless pioneers like you live and experiment at the very borders of flight-test, but would you ever consider having extra safety measures in your designs like ballistic parachutes etc. I am an adventurer, my job is to limit risks. All flights where the wearing of a parachute is possible are carried out with a parachute for each crew member. Certain flights cannot be carried out with a parachute. But we will have to test the plane and the flight profiles beforehand. In this case, the risks are greater. But a risk-free adventure is no longer an adventure.

Would you tell us about your technical and management team?

We have a small team, very motivated and super competent who allow us to carry out this adventure, with brilliant and passionate people. It is a providence for me to work with these incredible people.

What would be the next steps for further development of SolarStratos?

We hope to participate in the development of electric aviation and also we hope that our know-how could allow the development of high-altitude solar drones in the future.

Do you expect SolarStratos and similar initiatives to increase in number in the near future?

This is already the case, there are more and more adventure projects and communication explorations for the promotion of environmental protection.

Is there any interest or support from Turkey for SolarStratos?What do you think about collaborating with some institutions in Turkey?

For example, Turkey Space Agency manages Turkey’s National Space Program. We are a project born in Switzerland, but we are very happy when other countries or institutions wish to engage with us in this dream of joining the stratosphere with solar energy. So yes we are open.

What would you recommend to young aviators who dream to work at SolarStratos?

Just follow us, maybe we will need new talent very soon.

Anything else would you like to add?

We are destroying the world when we have all it takes to change and become sustainable. Renewable energies, technology, raw materials. This will also be profitable for our economy, and especially for countries like Turkey which has a good position in terms of potential for renewable energy production. We are all responsible for the change in order to preserve our beautiful blue planet.

 Raphaël Domjan

Born on 19 January 1972 in Neuchâtel, and raised in Lausanne, Switzerland Raphaël has been passionate about adventure and exploration since childhood. Now an eco-explorer and speaker, through his SolarPlanet Foundation, Raphaël is committed to promoting solar energy to fight against climate change. Today, his adventures and explorations are no longer about discovering unknown lands or breaking records. They focus instead on protecting our environment and biodiversity. We now have the knowledge and technology we need to be completely sustainable, and to make meaningful progress together. Raphaël is also involved in various humanitarian projects. He wants to promote the use of renewable energy in developing countries, thus enabling them to acquire energy independence while developing new technologies.