The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with the conflict in Ukraine driving defence spending and investment, the need to combat emerging technologies such as hypersonics, and growing importance of technologies such as AI and computer vision. 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 Robotics in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Remote-controlled drone launchers.

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, collision avoidance for robots, computer vision for autonomous navigation, and autonomous control systems are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. UAV swarm control, and drone flight control system are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Maturing innovation areas includes sensor-guided aiming assists which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for robotics in the aerospace and defence industry

Remote-controlled drone launchers is a key innovation area in robotics

Drone launchers enable easy and remote launching of one or multiple drones, and can be activated remotely.  

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 defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of remote-controlled drone launchers.

Key players in remote-controlled drone launchers – 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 remote-controlled drone launchers

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Boeing 215 Unlock company profile
AeroVironment 147 Unlock company profile
SZ DJI Technology 116 Unlock company profile
United Parcel Service 71 Unlock company profile
Walmart 67 Unlock company profile
Ford Motor 63 Unlock company profile
Hood Technology 60 Unlock company profile
Wing Aviation 47 Unlock company profile
Aerovel 46 Unlock company profile
Deutsche Post 35 Unlock company profile
Ai Robotics 29 Unlock company profile
FedEx 25 Unlock company profile
H3 Dynamics Holdings 24 Unlock company profile
Lockheed Martin 23 Unlock company profile
Naval Group 22 Unlock company profile
Workhorse Group 18 Unlock company profile
Amazon.com 17 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 16 Unlock company profile
LG 16 Unlock company profile
Ocado Group 15 Unlock company profile
Percepto 14 Unlock company profile
ThyssenKrupp 14 Unlock company profile
Textron 13 Unlock company profile
KMW+Nexter Defense Systems 13 Unlock company profile
Blue Bear Systems Research 13 Unlock company profile
Panasonic 12 Unlock company profile
Zero 12 Unlock company profile
SpearUAV 11 Unlock company profile
Matternet 11 Unlock company profile
Nidec 11 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 11 Unlock company profile
Qualcomm 11 Unlock company profile
Sarcos 10 Unlock company profile
Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson 10 Unlock company profile
IHI 10 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Motor Group 9 Unlock company profile
International Business Machines 9 Unlock company profile
GoerTek 9 Unlock company profile
Technocraft Industries (India) 9 Unlock company profile
Balyo 9 Unlock company profile
COMSovereign Holding 9 Unlock company profile
KDDI 8 Unlock company profile
Hoverfly Technologies 8 Unlock company profile
Kyocera 8 Unlock company profile
Israel Aerospace Industries 8 Unlock company profile
Chemring Group 8 Unlock company profile
Asylon 8 Unlock company profile
Ondas Holdings 8 Unlock company profile
Tribune Broadcasting 8 Unlock company profile
First Principles 8 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Boeing is the leading patent filer in this sector. It has filed a number of patents in order to streamline drone launching and use. The focus is on use in the field, providing easier and quicker launch systems for UAVs. The second largest patent filer in the company is AeroVironment, which produces a variety of military drones including the Switchblade 300 which has seen extensive use in Ukraine. Some other key patent filers include SZ DJI Technology, Ford Motor and Hood Technology.

In terms of application diversity, Balyo is one of the leaders, followed by Ford Motor and KDDI. In terms of geographic diversity, Naval Group is the largest player, followed by KMW, Nexter Defense Systems and ThyssenKrupp.

The conflict in Ukraine has seen extensive use of a variety of drones, in particular small UAVs, this will likely drive innovation in this sector as companies seek to find better drone launching systems.

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.