The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by automation, environmental sustainability, and operational efficiency, and growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), drones, and satellites. 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: multi-rotor propulsion. Buy 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 supression 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

Multi-rotor propulsion is a key innovation area in aerospace and defense

Multi-rotor propulsion refers to a propulsion system that utilizes multiple rotors to generate lift and control the movement of an aircraft. The aircraft is typically equipped with several motors and propellers arranged in a configuration that allows for vertical takeoff and landing and precise control in various flight directions. This propulsion system is commonly used in drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for various applications.

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 180+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of multi-rotor propulsion.

Key players in multi-rotor propulsion – 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 multi-rotor propulsion

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Rolls-Royce 14 Unlock Company Profile
AeroVironment 54 Unlock Company Profile
Karem Aircraft 6 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 7 Unlock Company Profile
Subaru 7 Unlock Company Profile
Israel Aerospace Industries 13 Unlock Company Profile
Wing Aviation 6 Unlock Company Profile
Daicel 7 Unlock Company Profile
Parrot 8 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 8 Unlock Company Profile
Halliburton 6 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 11 Unlock Company Profile
Yamaha Motor 6 Unlock Company Profile
Murata Manufacturing 7 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 7 Unlock Company Profile
Korea Electric Power 6 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 15 Unlock Company Profile
China Southern Power Grid 10 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 8 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 7 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 25 Unlock Company Profile
Doosan 5 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 13 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 34 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 35 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 84 Unlock Company Profile
LG 17 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 58 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 10 Unlock Company Profile
Chugoku Electric Power 16 Unlock Company Profile
SoftBank Group 16 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 11 Unlock Company Profile
SZ DJI Technology 109 Unlock Company Profile
Top Flight Technologies 18 Unlock Company Profile
Yanmar (Tokyo Office) 6 Unlock Company Profile
Sunlight Photonics 9 Unlock Company Profile
EADS Deutschland 6 Unlock Company Profile
Meditor European Master Fund 18 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 6 Unlock Company Profile
Alakai Technologies 18 Unlock Company Profile
Alpine 4 6 Unlock Company Profile
Kitty Hawk 8 Unlock Company Profile
Volocopter 8 Unlock Company Profile
Nileworks 21 Unlock Company Profile
Autel Robotics USA 17 Unlock Company Profile
Jetoptera 64 Unlock Company Profile
VoltAero 14 Unlock Company Profile
Foshan Shenfeng Aviation Technology 6 Unlock Company Profile
Guangzhou Xaircraft Technology 8 Unlock Company Profile
SOOMVI 7 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Boeing is one of the leading patent filers in multi-rotor propulsion. The company, through its subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, filed patents related to hybrid propulsion type vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft.    

A hybrid propelled aircraft, having wings with ducted fans, uses both traditional and electric propulsion to take off and land vertically. The design of the aircraft helps it transition smoothly from vertical to horizontal flight without any sudden or unexpected movements. It also offers quick altitude transitions. The aircraft is more efficient during hover and forward flight compared to other VTOL aircraft and can also achieve a higher maximum speed when flying forward.

Boeing is working on the LIFT! Project to investigate the scaling of electric multi-rotor propulsion. It examined ways in which multiple VTOL aircraft could cooperate to decrease the cost of vertical flight.

Some other key patent filers in this space include Jetoptera, Airbus, and AeroVironment.   

In terms of application diversity, Karem Aircraft, Textron, and Israel Aerospace Industries are some of the leading innovators. By means of geographic reach, some of the leading patent filers include Safran, Rolls-Royce, and VoltAero.   

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.