The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the pressing need for modernisation, and the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence and unmanned systems. 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 Innovation in defense: galvano-scannersBuy 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 stabilizing 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. 

110 innovations will shape the aerospace and defense industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the aerospace and defense industry using innovation intensity models built on over 206,000 patents, there are 110 innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, aircraft fuel cell APUs, self-calibrating scanners, and vibration suppression devices are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Aircraft ultrasonic inspection, aircraft power distribution network, and contour scanning interferometry are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are precision-guided firearms and aircraft power management, which are now well established in the industry.  

Innovation S-curve for the aerospace and defense industry

Galvano-scanners is a key innovation area in aerospace and defense 

Galvanometer optical scanners, also known as Galvos or Galvano-scanners, are critical components for laser beam directors and scanning technologies. Galvano scanners utilise motorised mirror mounts to rapidly and accurately re-direct small laser beams, and are thus crucial to a variety of technologies which rely on lasers for targeting and navigation, such as LiDAR sensors for unmanned vehicles. 

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 galvano-scanners. 

Key players in galvano-scanners – 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 galvano-scanners

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Aerospace Hi-Tech 4 Unlock Company Profile
Huawei Investment & Holding 22 Unlock Company Profile
Elbit Systems 8 Unlock Company Profile
Thales 5 Unlock Company Profile
Microsoft 10 Unlock Company Profile
Topcon 8 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 38 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 23 Unlock Company Profile
Pictometry International 6 Unlock Company Profile
Hexagon 21 Unlock Company Profile
Apple 62 Unlock Company Profile
Lumibird 4 Unlock Company Profile
Carl Zeiss Stiftung 6 Unlock Company Profile
Aptiv 5 Unlock Company Profile
Pioneer 44 Unlock Company Profile
Faro Technologies 21 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 4 Unlock Company Profile
Ricoh 23 Unlock Company Profile
Northrop Grumman 12 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsui Chemicals 10 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Electric 6 Unlock Company Profile
Nokia 6 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 26 Unlock Company Profile
Canon 7 Unlock Company Profile
Kyocera 47 Unlock Company Profile
ams 4 Unlock Company Profile
Konica Minolta 5 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 8 Unlock Company Profile
Infineon Technologies 16 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 22 Unlock Company Profile
LG 4 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 11 Unlock Company Profile
Furukawa 5 Unlock Company Profile
Sick 9 Unlock Company Profile
Innoviz Technologies 58 Unlock Company Profile
Dolphin International Berhad 10 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon 4 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 19 Unlock Company Profile
EagleView Technologies 4 Unlock Company Profile
General Interface Solution (GIS) 11 Unlock Company Profile
Aurora Innovation 24 Unlock Company Profile
Blickfeld 6 Unlock Company Profile
Ouster 28 Unlock Company Profile
LeiShen Intelligent System 9 Unlock Company Profile
Baraja 21 Unlock Company Profile
SOS Lab 5 Unlock Company Profile
Innovusion 8 Unlock Company Profile
Luminar Technologies 25 Unlock Company Profile
Aeva Technologies 9 Unlock Company Profile
Yandex Self Driving Group 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Apple is the global leader in terms of patent filing in galvano-scanner technology, as galvos are critical to the production of iPhone facial scanning technologies. Innoviz Technologies is the second most prolific patent filer over the last several years, with numerous applications involving novel galvano-scanner architectures for use in LiDAR sensors. Boeing and Raytheon Technologies are the two main players in this field specific to the defense industry, with both firms researching methods of optimizing galvano-scanners for applications in a range of vehicle or weapons guidance systems. Some other key patent filers in the automotive industry include Alphabet, General Motors, Ford Motor,, and Toyota Motor. 

In terms of application diversity, Mitsui Chemicals has published the most diverse range of patent applications, followed by Aeva Technologies in second place and Hexagon ranking third globally. By geographic reach, Ouster holds the top position, followed by Innoviz Technologies and Alphabet.  

As LiDAR technology continues to gain traction due to its applications in the unmanned or autonomous systems domain, demand for galvano-scanners is set to increase within the aerospace and defense industry, as well as other industries such as the automotive and technology markets due to the technical overlap. This rising demand could provide the catalyst for increased investment from defense firms active in associated markets such as unmanned systems or directed energy weapons development. The modernization of dismounted soldier systems increasingly involves the integration of emerging capabilities such as drones and laser targeting systems, thus expertise in the design and manufacture of galvano-scanners will prove valuable over the coming decades. 

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