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: photovoltaic dronesBuy 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.

Photovoltaic drones is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Photovoltaic drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that utilize solar panels as their primary source of power. They integrate solar cells within their wings and fuselage body to provide the required energy to fly. A variety of technologies and techniques are used to optimize energy efficiency and enable extended flight duration.

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

Key players in photovoltaic 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 photovoltaic drones

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Technocraft Industries (India) 1 Unlock Company Profile
AeroVironment 24 Unlock Company Profile
AECOM 3 Unlock Company Profile
Deutsche Telekom 1 Unlock Company Profile
Karem Aircraft 7 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 4 Unlock Company Profile
Wing Aviation 6 Unlock Company Profile
USAA 1 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 9 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid Corporation of China 1 Unlock Company Profile
Schneider Electric 1 Unlock Company Profile
LG Display 5 Unlock Company Profile
Meta Platforms 19 Unlock Company Profile
Gesco 2 Unlock Company Profile
Korea Electric Power 1 Unlock Company Profile
U.S. Department of Defence 1 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 8 Unlock Company Profile
MicroLink Devices 8 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 2 Unlock Company Profile
Kerry Properties 1 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 53 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 19 Unlock Company Profile
Walmart 8 Unlock Company Profile
SoftBank Group 35 Unlock Company Profile
Ebara 1 Unlock Company Profile
SolAero Technologies 5 Unlock Company Profile
SZ DJI Technology 6 Unlock Company Profile
Kaiser 6 Unlock Company Profile
Sunlight Photonics 12 Unlock Company Profile
EADS Deutschland 8 Unlock Company Profile
Meditor European Master Fund 10 Unlock Company Profile
XSun 2 Unlock Company Profile
X Development 2 Unlock Company Profile
Amogreentech 2 Unlock Company Profile
Volans-I 1 Unlock Company Profile
SkyX 2 Unlock Company Profile
Aigen 1 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Boeing is one of the leading patent filers in photovoltaic drones. Aurora Flight Sciences, a subsidiary of Boeing, has been granted a patent for a solar-powered aircraft comprising a solar panel, an array of voltage controllable battery packs, and an electric motor operatively coupled with a propeller.

Odysseus is a high-altitude long-endurance (HALE), solar-powered UAV being developed by Aurora Flight Sciences. It is a sleek photovoltaic drone built with lightweight materials. The unmanned aircraft features a 74m wing spar but has the overall weight of a smart car. Powered by advanced solar cells, the Odysseus UAV can provide endurance and autonomy to a wide variety of missions and operations including intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), weather and climate research, and communications.

Some other key patent filers in the photovoltaic drone space include AeroVironmen, Airbus, and BAE Systems.

In terms of application diversity, Boeing, AeroVironment, and BAE Systems are some of the leading patent filers. By means of geographic reach, some of the leading patent filers include BAE Systems, Airbus, and Boeing.

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.