The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and the growing importance of technologies such as drones, satellite technology, and big data. In the last three years alone, there have been over 237,000 patents filed and granted in the aerospace and defense industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Artificial intelligence in defense: aerial imaging. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

110 innovations will shape the aerospace and defense industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the aerospace and defense industry using innovation intensity models built on over 206,000 patents, there are 110 innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, precision imaging drones, aircraft maintenance AI, and AI video analytics are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Aerial imaging, autonomous flight controls, and surveillance AI are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily.

Innovation S-curve for artificial intelligence in the aerospace and defense industry

Aerial imaging is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence

Aerial imaging refers to the process of capturing images or videos from an elevated viewpoint using unmanned aircraft or drones. It involves mounting cameras on drones and maneuvering them to capture images or videos from different angles and heights. Aerial imaging provides a unique perspective and is widely used in various fields, including photography, cinematography, surveillance, surveying, mapping, and agriculture.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 100+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of aerial imaging.

Key players in aerial imaging – a disruptive innovation in the aerospace and defense industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.  

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to aerial imaging

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Casio Computer 5 Unlock Company Profile
Fujifilm 7 Unlock Company Profile
PowerLight Technologies 4 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 21 Unlock Company Profile
Israel Aerospace Industries 4 Unlock Company Profile
Hexagon 7 Unlock Company Profile
Booz Allen Hamilton 8 Unlock Company Profile
Ricoh 5 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 4 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 6 Unlock Company Profile
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency 5 Unlock Company Profile
Japan Asia Group 5 Unlock Company Profile 6 Unlock Company Profile
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone 5 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 21 Unlock Company Profile
LG 5 Unlock Company Profile
KDDI 4 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 4 Unlock Company Profile
Tribune Broadcasting 6 Unlock Company Profile
Aerometrex 4 Unlock Company Profile
Bitmanagement Software 4 Unlock Company Profile
OPTiM 15 Unlock Company Profile
Autel Robotics USA 7 Unlock Company Profile
Aeronext 4 Unlock Company Profile
Agency For Defense Development 4 Unlock Company Profile
Xiaomi 10 Unlock Company Profile
Guangzhou Xaircraft Technology 7 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Boeing is one of the leading patent filers in aerial imaging. It has filed patents related to advanced aerial imaging methods and systems such as three-dimensional vision system for autonomous tracking, surveillance, and improved situational awareness, and methods of texture classification of digital images in aerial inspection. It has also filed patents, through its subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, for methods and systems of detecting and tracking moving objects.

ScanEagle, Integrator, and MQ-28 are some of the aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) manufactured by the company that come with improved aerial scanning capabilities. Boeing collaborated with defense technology company Shield AI in March 2023 to explore the possibility of incorporating advanced AI and autonomous technologies to meet the requirements of existing and future military customers

Some other key patent filers in the aerial imaging space include Raytheon Technologies, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Israel Aerospace Industries.

In terms of application diversity, Boeing, Teledyne FLIR, and Aerometrex are some of the leading innovators. By means of geographic reach, some of the leading patent filers include Teledyne Technologies, Boeing, and Qualcomm.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the aerospace and defense industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Defense.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.