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: Planetary gear assembly. 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 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

Planetary gear assembly is a key innovation area in aerospace and defence 

A planetary gearset is made up of a centre gear (sun gear) around which “driven” gears (planet gears) rotate. They are connected by a carrier, which meshes the gears. They are known to be a highly durable and efficient type of gearset, especially for operations requiring high torque density. 

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 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of planetary gear assembly. 

Key players in planetary gear assembly – 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 planetary gear assembly

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Rolls-Royce Holdings 361 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 323 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 288 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 229 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 34 Unlock Company Profile
Areva Wind 14 Unlock Company Profile
Leonardo 12 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 8 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 8 Unlock Company Profile
Iveco Group 8 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 6 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Rolls-Royce is one of the leading patent filers in planetary gear assembly. Rolls-Royce has submitted patents relating to the use of planetary gearsets in aircraft gas turbine engines as well as their use in oil return. Some of the other key patent filers in the industry include Lockheed Martin, Siemens, and General Electric

In terms of geographic reach, Boeing leads the pack, followed by Leonardo and Areva Wind in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of application diversity, Areva Wind held the top position, followed by Leonardo, Textron, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens

Planetary gear assembly has the potential to benefit any gearbox including both commercial and military applications. Subsequently patent filings aren’t limited to aerospace and defence companies. However, aerospace and defence companies are filing numerous patents relating to the technology, with Rolls-Royce being the largest patent filer overall and within the aerospace and defence industries. 

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.