Mentions of big data within the filings of companies in the aerospace and defence sector fell 24% between the third and fourth quarters of 2021.

In total, the frequency of sentences related to big data during 2021 was 98% higher than in 2016 when GlobalData, from whom our data for this article is taken, first began to track the key issues referred to in company filings.

When companies in the aerospace and defence sector publish annual and quarterly reports, ESG reports and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies individual sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. Big data is one of these topics - companies that excel and invest in these areas are thought to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped to survive unforeseen challenges.

To assess whether big data is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of companies in the aerospace and defence sector, two measures were calculated. Firstly, we looked at the percentage of companies which have mentioned big data at least once in filings during the past twelve months - this was 67% compared to 50% in 2016. Secondly, we calculated the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to big data.

Of the 20 biggest employers in the aerospace and defence sector, Leonardo was the company which referred to big data the most during 2021. GlobalData identified 41 big data-related sentences in the Italy-based company's filings - 0.6% of all sentences. Thales mentioned big data the second most - the issue was referred to in 0.19% of sentences in the company's filings. Other top employers with high big data mentions included Bae , Safran and Airbus .

This analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on big data and how important the issue is considered within the aerospace and defence sector, but it also has limitations and should be interpreted carefully. For example, a company mentioning big data more regularly is not necessarily proof that they are utilising new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company's ventures into big data have been successes or failures.

GlobalData also categorises big data mentions by a series of subthemes. Of these subthemes, the most commonly referred to topic in the fourth quarter of 2021 was 'data analytics', which made up 64% of all big data subtheme mentions by companies in the aerospace and defence sector.