The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by environmental sustainability, electrification, and operational efficiency, and the growing importance of technologies such as hydrogen and electric aircraft and advanced materials. 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 Environmental sustainability in defense: hybrid electric aircraftBuy the report here.

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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.

Hybrid electric aircraft is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

A hybrid electric aircraft is an aircraft that uses a combination of internal combustion engines and electric motors for propulsion. It typically includes an engine, a generator, a battery, and a motor. The engine powers the generator, which produces electric power that is stored in the battery. The electric power is then used to drive the motor, which provides propulsion to the aircraft. The aircraft may have different modes of operation, such as a silence mode where only the stored electric power is used, or a normal mode where power from the generator is also utilized.

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 70+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of hybrid electric aircraft.

Key players in hybrid electric aircraft – 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 hybrid electric aircraft

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Hankuk Carbon 4 Unlock Company Profile
Rolls-Royce 107 Unlock Company Profile
Embraer 16 Unlock Company Profile
Goodrich Control Systems 2 Unlock Company Profile
Subaru 6 Unlock Company Profile
Israel Aerospace Industries 25 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 8 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 2 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 25 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 9 Unlock Company Profile
Nidec 4 Unlock Company Profile
Rakuten Group 7 Unlock Company Profile
LG Display 6 Unlock Company Profile
Envision Energy 5 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 92 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 8 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens Energy 3 Unlock Company Profile
Leonardo 37 Unlock Company Profile
MicroJet Technology 4 Unlock Company Profile
Saudi Arabian Oil 3 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 132 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 51 Unlock Company Profile
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone 5 Unlock Company Profile
General Dynamics 4 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 74 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 47 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 153 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 4 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 2 Unlock Company Profile
KDDI 5 Unlock Company Profile
SoftBank Group 13 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 6 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 5 Unlock Company Profile
Archer Aviation 5 Unlock Company Profile
SZ DJI Technology 28 Unlock Company Profile
EADS Deutschland 5 Unlock Company Profile
Flyability 5 Unlock Company Profile
H3 Dynamics 9 Unlock Company Profile
Kitty Hawk 6 Unlock Company Profile
Zunum Aero 3 Unlock Company Profile
Nileworks 11 Unlock Company Profile
Wright Electric 3 Unlock Company Profile
AeroMobil R&D 4 Unlock Company Profile
Zeva 2 Unlock Company Profile
H55 4 Unlock Company Profile
Amogreentech 2 Unlock Company Profile
VoltAero 25 Unlock Company Profile
Wisk Aero 31 Unlock Company Profile
Guangzhou Xaircraft Technology 6 Unlock Company Profile
Turntide Technologies 7 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Raytheon Technologies (RTX) is one of the leading patent filers in hybrid electric aircraft. The company, through its subsidiary Hamilton Sundstrand (now Collins Aerospace), filed patents related to hybrid propulsion systems, electrical powertrain, DC-DC converter system for battery-powered electric propulsion, and electrical motor power control systems for aircraft.

RTX completed the first engine run of its regional hybrid-electric flight demonstrator at Pratt & Whitney's innovation facility in Longueuil, Quebec, Canada, in December 2022. The propulsion system of the flight demonstrator integrates a 1MW electric motor developed by Collins Aerospace with a highly efficient thermal engine from Pratt & Whitney, another business unit of RTX. The rated power test of the electric motor was completed in June 2023.

As part of the demonstrator project, which is supported by the governments of Canada and Quebec, the hybrid-electric propulsion system and batteries will be integrated on a Dash 8-100 experimental aircraft. With flight testing scheduled to begin in 2024, the aircraft is targeted to demonstrate a 30% improvement in fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions compared to the most advanced regional turboprop aircraft operating today.

Some other key patent filers in the hybrid electric aircraft space include Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Safran.

In terms of application diversity Wright Electric, Wisk Aero, and Zunum Aero are some of the leading innovators. By means of geographic reach, the leading patent filers include VoltAero, Safran, and Airbus.

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