The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the use of big data, and artificial intelligence, and growing importance of technologies such as machine learning and edge computing. 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 Cloud in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Drone launching techniques. 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, beamforming antennas, route guidance sensor networks, and V2V enabled autonomous vehicles are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Drone launching techniques, EV charging smart grids, and location-based network services are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are indoor navigation systems and indoor positioning systems, which is now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for cloud in the aerospace and defence industry 

Drone launching techniques is a key innovation area in cloud

The launching period for UAVs is critical, fixed-wing UAVs need a minimum air speed before take-off and large fixed wing UAVs need a minimum runway length for take-off or landing. Small UAVs are easier to launch but there are improvements that can be made to improve launch efficiency.

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 40 companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of drone launching techniques.

Key players in drone launching techniques – 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 drone launching techniques

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Boeing 170 Unlock Company Profile
United Parcel Service 65 Unlock Company Profile
AeroVironment 59 Unlock Company Profile
Hood Technology 58 Unlock Company Profile
SZ DJI Technology 49 Unlock Company Profile
Aerovel 35 Unlock Company Profile
Wing Aviation 33 Unlock Company Profile
Walmart 33 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 23 Unlock Company Profile
Workhorse Group 18 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 16 Unlock Company Profile
Ocado Group 15 Unlock Company Profile
Zero 12 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 11 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 11 Unlock Company Profile
Nidec 11 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 10 Unlock Company Profile 10 Unlock Company Profile
Wintec Arrowmaker 9 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 8 Unlock Company Profile
Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson 8 Unlock Company Profile
Asylon 8 Unlock Company Profile
Deutsche Post 8 Unlock Company Profile
Guangzhou Xaircraft Technology 8 Unlock Company Profile
ThyssenKrupp 8 Unlock Company Profile
Tribune Broadcasting 8 Unlock Company Profile
H3 Dynamics Holdings 7 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 7 Unlock Company Profile
Matternet 7 Unlock Company Profile
Zipline 7 Unlock Company Profile
Ai Robotics 7 Unlock Company Profile
Sarcos 6 Unlock Company Profile
Kitty Hawk 6 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor Group 6 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 6 Unlock Company Profile
Elbit Systems 6 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 6 Unlock Company Profile
Kespry 6 Unlock Company Profile
LAITRAM 5 Unlock Company Profile
Korean Air Lines 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

SZ DJI Technology has filed the largest number of patents in drone launching techniques. SZ DJI Technology produces a range of commercial drones for the consumer, agricultural and industrial sectors, and specialises in high quality cameras and integration with software. Most of SZ DJI’s launching technologies were developed to enable small handheld drones to launch in various conditions and environments more reliably. The second most prominent patent applicant in this domain is KDDI, which specialises in the development of small commercial drones which can be utilised for inspecting infrastructure and facilities. KDDI’s recent work in this field includes smart drone platforms, powered through cloud, which facilitate launches.

In terms of application diversity, KDDI is the top company due to the variety of industries its drones can be utilised in, and Hitachi is in second place. In terms of geographic spread, SZ DJI Technology is first, followed by KDDI.  

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