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 emerging 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: aircraft power distribution networkBuy 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

Aircraft power distribution network is a key innovation area in aerospace and defense 

Aircraft power distribution networks are systems that share and regulate the distribution of power across the aircraft. Increasingly complex aircraft designs are requiring power distribution networks to be more advanced and responsive, and capable of routing power around localised faults, to maintain power supply to all parts of the aircraft. The development of the Internet of Things is resulting in smarter power distribution networks. 

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 aircraft power distribution network. 

Key players in aircraft power distribution network – 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 aircraft power distribution network

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Liebherr-International 20 Unlock Company Profile
Bombardier 10 Unlock Company Profile
Deutsche Lufthansa 12 Unlock Company Profile
COSCO Shipping 7 Unlock Company Profile
Eaton 3 Unlock Company Profile
Rolls-Royce 157 Unlock Company Profile
AeroVironment 28 Unlock Company Profile
Astronics 13 Unlock Company Profile
Aspen Avionics 6 Unlock Company Profile
Diehl Stiftung 24 Unlock Company Profile
Latecoere 4 Unlock Company Profile
Thales 71 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 7 Unlock Company Profile
Wing Aviation 9 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 7 Unlock Company Profile
John Bean Technologies 10 Unlock Company Profile
Nidec 6 Unlock Company Profile
Parker Hannifin 4 Unlock Company Profile
Snecma 8 Unlock Company Profile
Crane 9 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 388 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 15 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 9 Unlock Company Profile
Nabtesco 12 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 218 Unlock Company Profile
Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault 19 Unlock Company Profile
Warburg Pincus 4 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 28 Unlock Company Profile
General Dynamics 6 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 549 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 331 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 332 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 5 Unlock Company Profile
Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt 3 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 5 Unlock Company Profile
BT Group 6 Unlock Company Profile
SoftBank Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 41 Unlock Company Profile
Tq-Systems 7 Unlock Company Profile
Hs Elektronik Systeme 12 Unlock Company Profile
IMAGIK INTERNATIONAL 6 Unlock Company Profile
Archer Aviation 13 Unlock Company Profile
BE Intellectual Property 6 Unlock Company Profile
Groupe Latecoere 14 Unlock Company Profile
Plato Media 15 Unlock Company Profile
Kitty Hawk 11 Unlock Company Profile
H55 4 Unlock Company Profile
Xerox 5 Unlock Company Profile
Wisk Aero 11 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Jukogyo Kabushiki Kaisha 7 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Safran is the leading patent filer in aircraft power distribution networks. Some other key patent filers in the aerospace and defense industry include General Electric, Airbus, and Boeing.  

In September 2022, Safran launched its electrical engineering center of excellence. Safran and its subsidiaries have submitted patents relating to the networking of power onboard electric aircraft – a topic of increasingly relevance and interest in the industry. The company signed a collaboration agreement with Cuberg, a subsidiary of battery manufacturer Northvolt, in September 2023, to jointly develop an aviation energy storage system for future full electric and hybrid aircraft.  

Airbus filed two patents in October 2022 relating to ways of cooling power distribution networks on aircraft.

In terms of application diversity, Nidec leads the pack. H55 and Deutsches Zentrum stand in second and third positions, respectively. By geographic reach, AeroVironment holds the top position, followed by John Bean Technologies, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and Industriel Marcel Dassault. 

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.