The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and growing importance of technologies such as drones, satellite technology, and big data. 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 Artificial intelligence in defense: precision imaging drones. 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, precision imaging drones, aircraft maintenance AI, and AI video analytics are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Aerial imaging, autonomous flight controls, and surveillance AI are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily.

Innovation S-curve for artificial intelligence in the aerospace and defense industry

Precision imaging drones is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence

Precision imaging drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are equipped with advanced imaging technologies, such as high-resolution cameras and sensors, to capture highly detailed images and data of a specific area or object from a distance. These drones are used in various fields, such as disaster response, inspection, surveillance, and mapping.

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 160+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of precision imaging drones.

Key players in precision imaging drones – 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 precision imaging drones

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance 47 Unlock Company Profile
INRIX 34 Unlock Company Profile
AT&T 18 Unlock Company Profile
Motorola Solutions 4 Unlock Company Profile
Plasan Sasa 4 Unlock Company Profile
Dolby Laboratories 5 Unlock Company Profile
Wing Aviation 8 Unlock Company Profile
United Parcel Service 4 Unlock Company Profile
Inventec 4 Unlock Company Profile
Baidu 7 Unlock Company Profile
The Travelers Companies 5 Unlock Company Profile
Northrop Grumman 7 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 6 Unlock Company Profile
Alarmcom 7 Unlock Company Profile
Bayer 5 Unlock Company Profile
BASF 6 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 7 Unlock Company Profile 45 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 20 Unlock Company Profile
LG 18 Unlock Company Profile
IBM 66 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 8 Unlock Company Profile
Accenture 6 Unlock Company Profile
Walmart 8 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 13 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 19 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 7 Unlock Company Profile
GoPro 11 Unlock Company Profile
Skydio 39 Unlock Company Profile
SZ DJI Technology 59 Unlock Company Profile
Top Flight Technologies 4 Unlock Company Profile
SparkCognition 4 Unlock Company Profile
Scope Technologies 5 Unlock Company Profile
Global Tel*Link 5 Unlock Company Profile
Manna Irrigation 4 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
Conduent 4 Unlock Company Profile
Airspace Systems 6 Unlock Company Profile
TBG Treuhand Partner 4 Unlock Company Profile
Zipline 6 Unlock Company Profile
OPTiM 16 Unlock Company Profile
Autel Robotics USA 10 Unlock Company Profile
Loveland Innovations 7 Unlock Company Profile
X Development 15 Unlock Company Profile
Aerobotics 5 Unlock Company Profile
TerraClear 13 Unlock Company Profile
BirdBrain 4 Unlock Company Profile
Verizon Patent And Licensing 9 Unlock Company Profile
Lens Ventures 11 Unlock Company Profile
1Ahead 10 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Skydio is one of the leading patent filers in precision imaging drones. It has filed patents related to magic wand interface and other user interaction paradigms for a flying digital assistant, UAV rooftop inspection system, unmanned aerial image capture platform, UAV control through multi-touch interactive visualization, and image space motion planning of an autonomous vehicle.  

The company recently launched the Skydio X10 drone that features advanced AI and autonomous capabilities to provide more precise and reliable imaging. The drone is designed to cater to the needs of first responders, infrastructure operators, as well as the military forces of the US and its allied nations across the globe.

Some other significant patent filers in this space include Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Plasan.  

In terms of application diversity, Honeywell International, General Electric, and Northrop Grumman are some of the leading innovators. By means of geographic reach, some of the leading patent filers include Skydio, Top Flight Technologies, and Boeing

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the aerospace and defense industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in 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.