An Irish aviation company is aiming to raise €500,000 by the middle of next year as it bids to expand its drone training and certification services across Europe.
Founded in 2019, Avtrain claims to be Europe’s leading company in the area of drone training, and has high hopes for growth as drones become more widely used across a range of industries.
Julie Garland, Avtrain’s founder and chief executive, has years of experience in both the aviation and law sectors, having worked in both industries before establishing the company in 2019.
In 2015, she set up the Unmanned Aircraft Association of Ireland (UAAI), a body that lobbies on behalf of drone operators in Ireland and now has more than 560 members. She previously worked with Aer Lingus, Weston Airport and CityJet, and is also a trained barrister.
With Avtrain, Garland is attempting to establish a regulatory framework that can help to grow the drone industry in Ireland while keeping the skies safe. The firm trained more than 350 pilots in 2021 alone.
“That’s huge when you consider that there are only about 500 on the live register at the moment. So we’re really going from strength to strength,” Garland said.
Avtrain, which has backing from Enterprise Ireland, certifies drone pilots for all fixed-wing, hybrid, single and multi-rotor drones in all weight categories. It has accreditation to train drone users to the standards required by European regulations, which came into effect in 2019.
“The European regulations made a dramatic difference to the drone industry but also to Avtrain, because they allowed us to grow from a company that provided Irish national pilot licences to European licences,” she said. “They also allowed us to expand our business across Europe.”
Garland said Avtrain was operating at the cutting edge of drone regulation, meaning its services are in huge demand not only in Ireland but around the world.
“It’s been unbelievable,” she said of the firm’s expansion. “We’ve taken on two new employees, which has helped with the growth, and we’ll be looking for another two next year to cope with the volume of work that’s coming in at the moment.”
For Garland, Avtrain’s drone training might be the immediate focus, but it’s not the only aviation project she’s involved in. The company is part of a consortium of businesses and organisations which are aiming to establish Ireland’s first “vertiport”, a platform used by electric aerial vehicles.
The group, which aims to establish Ireland’s first air taxi service as well as routine beyond visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone operations, last week received planning permission to develop the project at a site beside Shannon Airport.
Garland said the group chose the location of the vertiport deliberately, in an attempt to “integrate drones into how we think about our normal airspace. It’s a fast-moving industry, and this is the first testbed for eVTOL (electric, vertical takeoff and landing) aircrafts”.
In 2022, Garland will attempt to grow Avtrain’s training business but also to help the wider industry grow. “That really means getting the Shannon base to take off,” she said.
“My ambitions are more than Avtrain: I want to help set up Ireland as a centre of excellence for all things related to unmanned aircraft. We have to think bigger than just individual companies. We have to have the infrastructure in place to attract this business to Ireland. My goal is to make Ireland the centre of the world of autonomy.”