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The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the uptake of advanced technology, and growing importance of technologies such as hypersonics and advanced materials. 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 Innovation in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Convertible aircrafts. 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, bonded fibre laminates, thermoplastic elastomer laminates, and vibration supression devices are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Centrifugal fan impellers, ceramic composite laminates, and gas turbine engine testing are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are protective blade coatings and blade alloy welding, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for the aerospace and defence industry

Convertible aircraft is a key innovation area in aerospace and defence

A convertible aircraft, also known as a tilt rotor aircraft, can take off and land vertically. It can move horizontally once it has achieved enough height.

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 convertible aircraft.

Key players in convertible aircraft – 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 convertible aircraft

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
AeroMobil 65 Unlock Company Profile
AeroMobil R&D 42 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 22 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 19 Unlock Company Profile
Piasecki Aircraft 12 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 10 Unlock Company Profile
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group 9 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 9 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 8 Unlock Company Profile
Subaru 7 Unlock Company Profile
Tatsumi Ryoki 7 Unlock Company Profile
Rolls-Royce Holdings 6 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Toyota is one of the leading patent filers in convertible aircraft. The company has signed an agreement with Joby Aviation to develop eVTOL aircraft – these aircraft will have vertical lift capabilities but will also have tilt rotor capabilities. Toyota has additionally partnered with the Japanese airline Ana to provide eVTOL capabilities. Piasecki Aircraft, an aerospace company with a variety of products including rotorcraft and unmanned systems, has recently filed patents for a convertible aircraft with VTOL capabilities. Other key patent filers in this industry include Boeing, Qualcomm and Mitsubishi.

In terms of application diversity, Zhejiang Geely is the largest, followed by Mitsubishi. By geographic reach, AeroMobil is first, followed by Mitsubishi.

eVTOL capabilities are receiving significant attention and investment, though they have some way to go before becoming widespread – however there are examples of convertible aircraft already in service.  

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the aerospace and defence industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Defence.

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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.