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: aircraft maintenance AI. 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

Aircraft maintenance AI is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence

Aircraft maintenance AI refers to the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to monitor and analyze data from sensors during various modes of aircraft operation. These AI systems can identify anomalies and potential off-normal behavior in aircraft components, enabling proactive maintenance and timely repairs to ensure the safety and reliability of the aircraft.

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 20+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of aircraft maintenance AI.

Key players in aircraft maintenance AI – 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 aircraft maintenance AI

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Embraer 3 Unlock Company Profile
Thales 1 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 5 Unlock Company Profile
Intertrade 4 Unlock Company Profile
Northrop Grumman 6 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 17 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 1 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 2 Unlock Company Profile
Nabtesco 5 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 31 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 3 Unlock Company Profile 1 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 13 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 101 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 39 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 16 Unlock Company Profile
Appareo Systems 1 Unlock Company Profile
Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development 2 Unlock Company Profile
Alakai Technologies 2 Unlock Company Profile
OPTiM 2 Unlock Company Profile
Satavia 1 Unlock Company Profile
Agency For Defense Development 1 Unlock Company Profile
Centre National Research Scientific 1 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Boeing is one of the leading patent filers in the field of AI application for aircraft maintenance. The company has filed patents related to systems and methods of interactive cognitive task assistance, vehicle fault detection, and vehicle health management systems.

The vehicle health management method involves collecting initial vehicle information from a vehicle sensor, using one or more processors and a primary software module. It also entails assessing a risk value, a confidence value linked to the alignment of the initial vehicle data with a verified vehicle state, and a benefit value related to supplying the initial vehicle data to a secondary software module.

Boeing’s Insight Accelerator is a first-of-its-kind solution that enhances flight data analytics and provides customized alerting to strengthen predictive maintenance. It improves operational efficiency, increases airplane availability, and enhances schedule reliability.

Some other key patent filers in the aircraft maintenance AI space include Airbus, Raytheon Technologies, and Safran.

In terms of application diversity Lockheed Martin, Textron, and Thales are some of the leading innovators. By means of geographic reach, some of the leading patent filers include Airbus, Safran, and Boeing.

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.