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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: Depth sensing 3D imaging. 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

Depth sensing 3D imaging is a key innovation area in aerospace and defence 

3D sensing is depth sensing technology that can capture the length, width and height of real-world objects with accuracy and detail. 

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 depth sensing 3D imaging. 

Key players in depth sensing 3D imaging – 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 depth sensing 3D imaging

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
SZ DJI Technology 69 Unlock Company Profile
Microsoft 33 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 22 Unlock Company Profile
LG 18 Unlock Company Profile
Verisk Analytics 15 Unlock Company Profile
Cognex 14 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 13 Unlock Company Profile 12 Unlock Company Profile
Yara International 12 Unlock Company Profile
PRENAV 12 Unlock Company Profile
Apple 11 Unlock Company Profile
Yujin Robot 10 Unlock Company Profile
Uber Technologies 8 Unlock Company Profile
Magic Leap 7 Unlock Company Profile
Autel Robotics USA 7 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor Group 6 Unlock Company Profile
Fujifilm Holdings 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

SZ DJI Technology is one of the leading patent filers in depth sensing 3D imaging. The company is investing in the technology as part of its drone systems in order to provide 3D mapping capabilities and further enhance the industrial uses of the technology. While the technology has a variety of commercial uses, the filing of patents by SZ DJI suggests it is going to continue to expand into the high-end uses of the technology. Microsoft, another leading company, has been a long-term investor in 3D imaging. The company has developed the Azure depth platform to proliferate 3D depth technology and provide technological solutions to other companies.

In terms of application diversity, PRENAV leads the pack, followed by Yujin Robot and Verisk Analytics. In terms of geographic reach, Magic Leap leads, followed by SZ DJI and Autel Robotics.

The technology has significant industrial applications and will be increasingly used in defence in coming years with a variety of companies filing patents in the sector. 

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.