The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by increasing automation, environmental concerns, and growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence and advanced remote sensing. In the last three years alone, there have been over 237,000 patents filed and granted in the aerospace and defense industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Drones in defense: aerial inspection drones. Buy the report here.

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Data Insights Drones in defence: Aerial inspection drones

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 206,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the aerospace and defense industry, there are 110 innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Aerial inspection drones is a key innovation area in drones

Aerial inspection drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with various types of sensors, cameras, and other imaging technologies to inspect and troubleshoot a variety of facilities and structures, including power lines, wind turbines, solar panels, oil rigs, pipelines, and dams. They perform visual or thermal inspections, detect gas or leak emissions, capture detailed images, and enable real-time monitoring and analysis. These types of drones have become increasingly popular for use in large-scale and remote engineering projects which require only minimal human staffing, cutting costs for operators whilst retaining a detailed inspection capability to meet safety and due diligence requirements.

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 20+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of aerial inspection drones.

Key players in aerial inspection drones – a disruptive innovation in the aerospace and defense industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to aerial inspection drones

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Changs Ascending Enterprise 1 Unlock Company Profile
Uni-President China 2 Unlock Company Profile
UT-Battelle 1 Unlock Company Profile
Block Engineering 2 Unlock Company Profile
Trimble 3 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid Corporation of China 4 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 2 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 2 Unlock Company Profile
Vestas Wind Systems 3 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 14 Unlock Company Profile
IBM 1 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 4 Unlock Company Profile
POSCO 2 Unlock Company Profile
EADS Deutschland 1 Unlock Company Profile
Hanwha Aerospace 1 Unlock Company Profile
IdentiFlight International 2 Unlock Company Profile
Knu-Industry Cooperation Foundation 1 Unlock Company Profile
Jinling Inst Technology 1 Unlock Company Profile
Jiashan Hengxing Electric Power Construction 1 Unlock Company Profile
SupAirVision 1 Unlock Company Profile
China Kepei Education Group 2 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Germany’s EADS Deutschland and South Korea’s Hanwha Aerospace are among the leading patent filers in aerial inspection drones. EADS filed for an aerial inspection drone with parabolic reflectors (solar panels). It is likely that other aerospace firms will develop aerial inspection drones using modified and existing designs or by purchasing combinations of commercial off-the-shelf components such as cameras to complement existing drone airframes.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the aerospace and defense industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Drones in Aerospace and 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.