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.
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 - 2021)||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.