The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need to lower operational costs, larger consumer trends, and electrification, and growing importance of technologies such as hydrogen and electric aircraft 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 Environment Sustainability in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Light-weight composite fuselage. 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, hydrogen fuel cells, aircraft powertrain control, and fuel cells for aircrafts are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. EV charging stations, hybrid propulsion aircraft engines, and electric aircraft charging interfaces are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are fuselage frame modelling and epoxy-based composites, which are now well established in the industry.  

Innovation S-curve for environmental sustainability in the aerospace and defence industry 

Light-weight composite fuselage is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability 

A composite material is a combination of two or more different materials that are stronger than individually. Manufacturers are using composite materials to make aircraft that are more fuel efficient, more durable and lighter. 

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 light-weight composite fuselage. 

Key players in light-weight composite fuselage – 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 light-weight composite fuselage

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Boeing 2197 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 1954 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 185 Unlock Company Profile
Leonardo 127 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 96 Unlock Company Profile
Saab 65 Unlock Company Profile
DAHER Aerospace 48 Unlock Company Profile
Melrose Industries 48 Unlock Company Profile
Spirit AeroSystems Holdings 42 Unlock Company Profile
Hexcel 42 Unlock Company Profile
General Dynamics 42 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 36 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 35 Unlock Company Profile
Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt 30 Unlock Company Profile
Bombardier 30 Unlock Company Profile
EADS Deutschland 30 Unlock Company Profile
COSCO Shipping Holdings 29 Unlock Company Profile
European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company 26 Unlock Company Profile
Solvay 24 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 20 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 19 Unlock Company Profile
Diehl Aircabin 18 Unlock Company Profile
Subaru 17 Unlock Company Profile
Continuous Composites 16 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 15 Unlock Company Profile
Howmet Aerospace 14 Unlock Company Profile
Eurocopter Deutschland Gesellschaft Mit Beschränkter Haftung 13 Unlock Company Profile
Fischer Advanced Composite Components 12 Unlock Company Profile
JAMCO 11 Unlock Company Profile
Israel Aerospace Industries 10 Unlock Company Profile
AB SKF 10 Unlock Company Profile
Elbit Systems 9 Unlock Company Profile
Shikibo 7 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 7 Unlock Company Profile
Walmart 7 Unlock Company Profile
Diehl Aviation Laupheim 7 Unlock Company Profile
Metis Design 7 Unlock Company Profile
Applus Services 7 Unlock Company Profile
Patria 6 Unlock Company Profile
Sierra Nevada 5 Unlock Company Profile
EURO-COMPOSITES 5 Unlock Company Profile
Kitty Hawk 5 Unlock Company Profile
Embraer 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Boeing is one of the leading patent filers in light-weight composite fuselages amongst aerospace and defence firms. The company is cognisant of the importance of environmental considerations to the future commercial aviation market. Some other key patent filers in the aerospace and defense industry include Airbus, Leonardo, Textron, and Saab. 

In terms of application diversity, Euro-Composites holds the most widely applicable patents regarding light-weight composite fuselages. The firm is trailed by Biehl Aircabin, JAMCO and Sierra Nevada in this regard. By means of geographic reach, Israel Aerospace Industries leads the way, followed by Fischer Advanced Composite Components and Daher Aerospace.

Light-weight fuselages can be deployed on conventional aircraft to reduce the overall weight of the fuselage whilst not compromising on safety. This will enhance the environmental performance of these aircraft as it will reduce overall weight and fuel use. Furthermore, light-weight composites will be enabling technologies for novel green propulsion methods such as all-electric and hydrogen aircraft. These technologies are limited by the specific energy of fuel cells and batteries, but reducing the weight of the airframe reduces this pressure.  

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.