evtolinsights.com is embarking on a series of articles looking at Ireland and how the country is shaping the future of the eVTOL and drone industry. We begin the series with Julie Garland, founder of Dublin-based Avtrain, who is at the forefront of the Irish assault. Her company specialises in training drone pilots and operators. She founded Avtrain in 2019.
Julie holds an impressive CV which includes being a former Airline Training Captain and Aircraft Maintenance Engineer; Director Compliance for Norwegian Air International; as well as a Barrister at Law, a former Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and an accredited mediator.
Avtrain currently holds an approval as Recognised Entity issued by the Irish Aviation Authority for the grant of EASA Open A2 and all Specific Category Authorisations, Declarations & Light UAS operator Certificate (LUC).
Julie is the founding Chair of the Unmanned Aircraft Association of Ireland (UAAI) and spearheaded bringing the UAAI and Ireland into the newly formed JEDA, the Joint European Drone Associations to give drone operators a voice in Europe. She also sits as the JEDA representative on JARUS (Joint Authorities for Rule-Making on Unmanned Systems).
The interview lasted close to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Some of the information covered is already in the public domain, so links are posted as part of the article, where readers can both listen to a podcast and watch a video.
To learn more about Julie’s background and experience, please tune in to this previous evtolinsights.com podcast carried out by Jason Pritchard last October.
To follow this up: For more up-to-date news please see this video from June 29th where Julie is interviewed by Dawn Zoldi from Dawn of Drones.
I first communicated with Julie Garland via the weekly evtolinsights.com Clubhouse event (every Thursday at 5pm). We later met at the Farnborough Airshow. She is a very likeable, full of energy, busy lady whose passion and enthusiasm for drones and eVTOLs is infectious. Her manner of speech is like a gatling gun. Rapid, quick-fire and from the hip. Add a pleasing Irish brogue and people listen intently to her, fascinated by the experience, knowledge and ideas she holds.
Not only is Julie highly respected within the industry, but her tour-de-force is thrusting Ireland into the forefront of the increasing drone and eVTOL developments now taking place, helping the country to forge and even lead Europe.
At Farnborough, Julie was in her element. Avtrain had a presence on the Enterprise Ireland Trade Stand (No.1336/Hall 1), as one of six Irish companies.
She later explained how thrilling the experience had been. “This was a personal career highlight. I have attended the Airshow many times, but to be there representing the Irish Aviation Industry under the Avtrain name, was something quite special. And then to be a speaker on a Forum panel about pilot training as well as be interviewed by the media … a real career high.”
Announcing three days in to the Airshow that Avtrain had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Spright in the presence of An Táiniste Leo Varadakar, the Irish Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to partner for EASA pilot and operator training and certification, a collaboration that will take place at the Future Mobility Campus Ireland (FMCI), located in Shannon, was the cherry on top.
“Farnborough was incredible for us,” enthuses Julie. “The UK business we have picked up during and after the show has exponentially increased.”
Avtrain will be attending the Drone X Trade Show and Conference at Excel, London on Sept 7th and 8th. She explains, “This is about us targeting the UK market. We’re aiming for a far greater presence.”
Avtrain attends up to four worldwide conferences a year, in Julie’s words, “to increase the company’s profile.” For example, Avtrain was at the Dubai Airshow last November. She can afford this thanks partly to the support from Enterprise Ireland who contribute towards the high overheads and costs of attending such major shows.
Julie’s future hopes include using a simulator for Avtrain’s drone training program; gaining a bigger presence in Europe which includes a focus on smaller countries like Poland and Estonia; and aligning the European EASA drone certification with the different UK CAA process.
Then, there are the further developments at Shannon Airport under the coordination of Future Mobility Campus Ireland (FMCI), after recent successful drone trials with Fedex (watch Dawn of Drones video). This includes constructing “a first in Ireland” vertiport to replace the present droneport. This should lead to further vertiports in the future along with pilot training in the certified category for passenger-carrying eVTOLs.
Given there are high hopes that air taxis will be flying competitors and public to and from the Ryder Cup tournament in 2027, held at the Adare Manor Gold course in County Limerick, this training program could become significant.
FMCI, Avtrain and Shannon Group have joined forces to develop Ireland’s Advanced Aerial Mobility (AAM) industry. Their goal is the establishment of the country’s first air taxi service and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone operations. The Ryder Cup in five years time is an ideal focus. Julie says, “Someone disembarking from a plane at Shannon Airport will then walk to a close-by vertiport and take an air-taxi to Adare Manor.”
She believes such developments provide exciting new opportunities for businesses and travellers. “Travelling short distance journeys of a few hundred kilometres by air will take minutes rather than hours.” Adding, “eVTOLs could be travelling at speeds of up to 180 kms.” Julie points out, “During last October’s Fedex trials, Swoop Aero’s Kookaburra drones were taking just 13 minutes to cover distances that by road might take 50 minutes or more.”
The Beautiful Setting of Adare Manor Golf Course
These eVTOL services could be used across the whole West Coast of Ireland, particularly areas like the Aran Islands, West Kerry and West Clare which are rural and hard to access from Shannon Airport. The passenger cost might be less than a road taxi.
Two months ago, a consortium including Avtrain, FMCI, Shannon Group, Collins Aerospace and the Irish Air Navigation Service Provider, were awarded funding under SESAR 3 JU to develop a ‘Digital Sky Demonstrator’, for aerial Unmanned Traffic Management systems. The value of this project is close to EUR7 million. It will be based at FMCI’s Advanced Aerial Mobility Research Test and Development Facilities at Shannon and is to include a network of AAM routes across Ireland.
So, which eVTOLs might be flying at the Ryder Cup?
It seems possible that FMCI may go “in-house” and bring on-board Ireland’s largest aviation lease-hire company Avolon. A year ago, Avolon signed a deal with UK-based Vertical Aerospace (VA) to purchase “up to 500 VX4s” at a value of USD2 billion. Already, this initial order has been placed with aviation companies from around the world.
Given VA is aiming for full certification of its craft by 2025, add two further years for the all-important increased production, it is feasible the golf tournament may see a fleet of VX4s flying overhead.
A VX4 Ready for Vertical Take-Off from Shannon Vertiport? (image:aviation.be)
Meanwhile, what does an energetic and busy Julie do to relax? “Boating on the River Shannon is my relief and go to place. I do little flying now, but my ideal is a seaplane, one that can land on water and take-off again. I am also a season ticket holder at Leinster Rugby Club.”
She doesn’t miss being a barrister. “I loved it when I was involved, but this new emerging aviation world, the most significant since the Wright Brothers, is just so exciting and to be a part of defining this future, too… The enthusiasm I experience each day from those around me is palpable. We are living it, breathing it, doing it. It is such an amazing feeling.”
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(Top Pic: The Times)