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: Computer vision for autonomous navigation. 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 system, 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 assists, which is now well established in the industry.  

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

Computer vision for autonomous navigation is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence 

Computer vision is a machine learning technique, which provides a machine with means to detect and identify objects including pedestrians or other objects in order to aid navigation. 

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 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of computer vision for autonomous navigation. 

Key players in computer vision for autonomous navigation – 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 computer vision for autonomous navigation

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Stradvision 74 Unlock Company Profile
Luminar Technologies 19 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 17 Unlock Company Profile 12 Unlock Company Profile
Baidu 11 Unlock Company Profile
Huawei Investment & Holding 10 Unlock Company Profile
PlusAI 9 Unlock Company Profile
iRobot 9 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 8 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 7 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 7 Unlock Company Profile
CNH Industrial 7 Unlock Company Profile
Cognata 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Stradvision is the company with the largest number of patents in computer vision for autonomous navigation. The company is developing computer vision solutions for autonomous vehicles for both the civil and defence sector and utilising LiDAR and low-cost cameras to detect objects. The second leading company is Luminar Technologies, which is trying to make autonomous driving safer through its computer vision solutions and aims to detect and clarify objects up to 250 meters away even in low light levels. 

In terms of application diversity, Luminar Technologies leads the pack, followed by and Intel. By means of geographic diversity, Plus AI leads, followed by Stradvision and Baidu. 

Computer vision for autonomous navigation has significant application and can be utilised to facilitate autonomous driving in battlefield scenarios as well as target recognition. Whilst the existing patents are largely being filed in the commercial sector, it will have significant impact in defence. 

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.