The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the uptake of advanced technology, and growing importance of technologies such as hypersonics 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 Innovation in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Image capturing HUDs.

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, bonded fibre laminates, thermoplastic elastomer laminates, and vibration supression devices are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Centrifugal fan impellers, ceramic composite laminates, and gas turbine engine testing are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are protective blade coatings and blade alloy welding, which are now well established in the industry.  

Innovation S-curve for the aerospace and defence industry 

Image capturing HUDs is a key innovation area in aerospace and defence 

HUD stands for heads up display. It enables images to be captured and then transferred to different devices.  

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 image capturing HUDs. 

Key players in Image capturing HUDs – 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 Image capturing HUDs

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Thales 71 Unlock company profile
Honeywell International 39 Unlock company profile
Airbus 33 Unlock company profile
Microsoft 33 Unlock company profile
KMW+Nexter Defense Systems 17 Unlock company profile
Elbit Systems 16 Unlock company profile
Sony Group 15 Unlock company profile
Raytheon Technologies 13 Unlock company profile
Meta Platforms 12 Unlock company profile
General Dynamics 12 Unlock company profile
Safran 11 Unlock company profile
NIKE 11 Unlock company profile
Seiko Epson 9 Unlock company profile
L3Harris Technologies 9 Unlock company profile
LG 8 Unlock company profile
BAE Systems 8 Unlock company profile
Intel 7 Unlock company profile
Marinvent 7 Unlock company profile
Boeing 6 Unlock company profile
Samsung Group 6 Unlock company profile
DISH Network 6 Unlock company profile
Science Applications International 6 Unlock company profile
Rakuten Group 5 Unlock company profile
CEA 5 Unlock company profile
InterDigital 5 Unlock company profile
Apple 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Thales is the leading patent filer in this sector. The company is developing a number of HUDs for various purposes – the stated purposes include for use in adverse weather conditions and as a piloting aid in hostile environments. The company notes the overall safety improvements as it provides ongoing information to aid operators in the field. These can be integrated in cockpits of military aircraft. Honeywell is the second leading patent filer in the sector. It is developing the technology for integration into aircraft to provide greater environmental awareness and overall safety features.

The leading company by application diversity is General Dynamics, followed by Intel and Boeing. By geographic reach KMW and Nexter Defense Systems are the top companies, followed by Safran and BAE systems.

The image capturing HUDs have significant military applications and will see increasing integration in coming years, providing live information on the battlefield.  

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the aerospace and defence industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Defence


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.