The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by developments in artificial technology and machine learning, and growing importance of technologies such as drones, satellite technology and big data. In the last three years alone, there have been over 174,000 patents filed and granted in the aerospace and defence industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Artificial Intelligence in Aerospace, Defence & Security: AI-assisted industrial image analysis. 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 stabilising 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.

180+ innovations will shape the aerospace and defence industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the aerospace and defence industry using innovation intensity models built on over 262,000 patents, there are 180+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, machine learning for autonomous navigation, battery thermal management systems, and satellite image mosaicing are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. 3D image segmentation, AV on-board control systems, and lidar for 3D object detection are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas is sensor-guided aiming assistance, which is now well established in the industry.

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

AI-assisted industrial image analysis is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence

AI image analysis has a variety of uses, and a leading industrial application is for fault monitoring as well as quality checks.

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 120+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of AI-assisted industrial image analysis.

Key players in AI-assisted industrial image analysis – a disruptive innovation in the aerospace and defence industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to AI-assisted industrial image analysis

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
SZ DJI Technology 157 Unlock Company Profile
Pictometry International 122 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 108 Unlock Company Profile
Baidu 93 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 83 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 83 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 73 Unlock Company Profile
Maxar Technologies 70 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 64 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 61 Unlock Company Profile 60 Unlock Company Profile
Thales 59 Unlock Company Profile
Microsoft 53 Unlock Company Profile
Stradvision 52 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 52 Unlock Company Profile
EagleView Technologies 50 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 45 Unlock Company Profile
L3Harris Technologies 43 Unlock Company Profile
Eagle View Technologies 42 Unlock Company Profile
X Development 39 Unlock Company Profile
Bayer 33 Unlock Company Profile
Geomni 33 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 29 Unlock Company Profile
Secom 29 Unlock Company Profile
Israel Aerospace Industries 28 Unlock Company Profile
Loveland Innovations 26 Unlock Company Profile
Here 25 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 24 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 23 Unlock Company Profile
Luminar Technologies 22 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 21 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 21 Unlock Company Profile
Saab 21 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 20 Unlock Company Profile
Tencent Holdings 19 Unlock Company Profile
Verisk Analytics 19 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 19 Unlock Company Profile
A.A.A. Taranis Visual 19 Unlock Company Profile
Elanco Animal Health 18 Unlock Company Profile
Nearmap 18 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 18 Unlock Company Profile
IHI 17 Unlock Company Profile
Parrot 17 Unlock Company Profile
TerraClear 16 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Electric 16 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 16 Unlock Company Profile
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems 16 Unlock Company Profile
Orbital Insight 15 Unlock Company Profile
Ministry of Defence (UK) 15 Unlock Company Profile
MBDA France 15 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

SZ DJI Technology has filed the largest number of patents in the sector and is creating high-resolution camera drones for industry use and seeks to develop technology that can automatically analyse the images and detect faults without a human operator in the loop. The second largest patent filer is Pictometry International, which is an aerial measurement company that is filing patents to help examine the outside of buildings.

Xiaomi is the leading patent filer in terms of application diversity in the sector. The company is developing a number of AI capabilities including image analysis. General Electric has also filed a number of patents in the sector, in order to improve production lines and reduce possible errors in production. GE services 70,000 jet engines and this is a key area where the technology will be optimised. The company intends to use AI and data analytics to inspect systems and automate repairs.

By geographic reach, the leading organisation is UK MOD, followed by Stradvision and Xiaomi.

The technology has a direct application in defence production, in the manufacturing of complex products including aircraft and ships, and could be utilised to reduce errors and speed up production.

To further understand how artificial intelligence is disrupting the aerospace and defence industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Thematic Research: 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.