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), machine learning, autonomy, 3D printing/additive manufacturing, and battery technology. As modernization requirements continue to drive investment within both the civil and military aerospace sectors, widespread demand for modular configurable drones has incentivized significant innovation within the field of drones. 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 Drones in defense: modular configurable dronesBuy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 206,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the aerospace and defense industry, there are 110 innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Modular configurable drones is a key innovation area in drones

Modular configurable drones are unmanned aerial vehicles, designed with interchangeable components that allows the user to customize and adapt to various configurations for different purposes and environments. These drones can be controlled remotely by a centralized device.  These drones can be quickly detached and operated independently of each other.

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 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of modular configurable drones.

Key players in modular configurable 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 modular configurable drones

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
AeroVironment 2 Unlock Company Profile
Subaru 3 Unlock Company Profile
Maplebear 5 Unlock Company Profile
Israel Aerospace Industries 15 Unlock Company Profile
National Aeronautics and Space Administration 2 Unlock Company Profile
Halliburton 28 Unlock Company Profile
Northrop Grumman 7 Unlock Company Profile
Meta Platforms 3 Unlock Company Profile
Acuity Brands 2 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 1 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 4 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 5 Unlock Company Profile
Saudi Arabian Oil 21 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 7 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 8 Unlock Company Profile 17 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 45 Unlock Company Profile
IBM 3 Unlock Company Profile
Walmart 16 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 9 Unlock Company Profile
SoftBank Group 16 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 2 Unlock Company Profile
Ebara 4 Unlock Company Profile
Hood Technology 1 Unlock Company Profile
Sunlight Photonics 12 Unlock Company Profile
EADS Deutschland 4 Unlock Company Profile
The Boy Scouts of America 5 Unlock Company Profile
Kitty Hawk 8 Unlock Company Profile
Neva Aerospace 3 Unlock Company Profile
Hall Labs 2 Unlock Company Profile
Aeronext 3 Unlock Company Profile
Advance Technology 2 Unlock Company Profile
Hex Technologies 4 Unlock Company Profile
PABLO AIR 5 Unlock Company Profile
AirRobot 11 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Boeing is one of the leading patent filers in modular configurable drones. The company, through its subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, filed patent related to wing tip docking system for aircraft which is a method and system for docking various types of aircraft. Boeing has also filed few more patents related to modular configurable drones, such as configurable cooling assembly and cooling method, configurable ergonomic pad, drone in-flight power recharging system, and balancing current within a modular converter system.

Some other key patent filers in this space include Israel Aerospace Industries, Textron, and Northrop Grumman.

In terms of application diversity, AeroVironment, BAE Systems, and Neva Aerospace are some of the leading innovators. By means of geographic reach, some of the leading patent filers include EADS Deutschland and Israel Aerospace Industries.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the aerospace and defense industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Drones in Aerospace and 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.