The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need to lower operational costs, 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: Ram air turbine. Buy the report here.

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 powered wheels for aircraft landing, which are now well established in the industry.  

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

Ram air turbine is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability 

A ram air turbine (RAT) is a turbine-based engine that serves as a secondary, emergency power source for aircraft hydraulic and electrical systems. The RAT functions by using the velocity of the aircraft to drive a turbine, which then drives a generator, thereby converting the aircraft’s kinetic energy to a useable form, powering aircraft sub-systems. 

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 defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of ram air turbine. 

Key players in ram air turbine – 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 ram air turbine

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Makani Technologies 123 Unlock company profile
Raytheon Technologies 96 Unlock company profile
Safran 61 Unlock company profile
X Development 55 Unlock company profile
Minesto 35 Unlock company profile
Alphabet 30 Unlock company profile
Airbus 20 Unlock company profile
ATC GROUP 19 Unlock company profile
General Electric 17 Unlock company profile
Areva Wind 14 Unlock company profile
Hitachi 8 Unlock company profile
Exxon Mobil 8 Unlock company profile
Lockheed Martin 7 Unlock company profile
MDS Aero Support - Management Team 7 Unlock company profile
Rolls-Royce Holdings 6 Unlock company profile
Wobben Properties 6 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 5 Unlock company profile
CEA 5 Unlock company profile
Sky WindPower 5 Unlock company profile
Boeing 5 Unlock company profile
Sunlight Photonics 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Raytheon Technologies is the leading patent filer in ram air turbines amongst aerospace and defence companies. The company is heavily invested in the production of aircraft engines through its Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney subsidiaries. Other key patent filers include Safran, Airbus, Lockheed Martin and Rolls-Royce.  

In terms of application diversity, Rolls-Royce leads the pack. Lockheed Martin and Safran stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Safran takes the top position, followed by Lockheed Martin and Boeing. 

Ram air turbines are capable of generating large amounts of thrust and accelerating aircraft to very high supersonic speeds. These speeds have applicability in defence roles, and in some commercial supersonic aircraft which are also under development.  

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.