The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by modernization imperatives, battlefield digitization, platform autonomy, and growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), unmanned maritime vehicles, remote sensing and directed energy weapons. 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: underwater ROVs. 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

Underwater ROVs is a key innovation area in aerospace and defense

Underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are a class of unmanned underwater vehicle which enable operators to deploy a submersible platform, which maintains a human ‘in-the-loop' and is thus controlled remotely suing either tethered or un-tethered teleoperation technology. Underwater ROVs have been developed to suit a wide variety of applications in both the civilian and defense sectors including surveillance, monitoring, maintenance, data collection and exploration. These systems can be deployed to depths typically inaccessible to human divers or be leveraged to offset manpower requirements in a variety of scenarios.

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 60+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of underwater ROVs.

Key players in underwater ROVs – 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 underwater ROVs

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
HADAL 117 Unlock Company Profile
ThyssenKrupp 46 Unlock Company Profile
InCube Labs 43 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 39 Unlock Company Profile
Kongsberg Gruppen 34 Unlock Company Profile
Autonomous Marine Systems 23 Unlock Company Profile
iXCore 22 Unlock Company Profile
Subsea 7 21 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 21 Unlock Company Profile
Brunswick 18 Unlock Company Profile
Thales 17 Unlock Company Profile
Oceaneering International 16 Unlock Company Profile
Rolls-Royce 16 Unlock Company Profile
A.P. Moller - Maersk 16 Unlock Company Profile
X Development 16 Unlock Company Profile
PXGEO Seismic Services 15 Unlock Company Profile
BP 12 Unlock Company Profile
Kongsberg Gruppen 11 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Jukogyo Kabushiki Kaisha 10 Unlock Company Profile
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Angewandten Forschung 9 Unlock Company Profile
PGS 9 Unlock Company Profile
ECA Robotics 8 Unlock Company Profile
iXCore 8 Unlock Company Profile
Uni-President China 8 Unlock Company Profile
Saab 7 Unlock Company Profile
Ocean Power Technologies 7 Unlock Company Profile
CGG 7 Unlock Company Profile
Oceaneering International 7 Unlock Company Profile
Subsea 7 7 Unlock Company Profile
CGG 6 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 5 Unlock Company Profile
Ihc Holland Ie 5 Unlock Company Profile
Magseis 4 Unlock Company Profile
Leidos 4 Unlock Company Profile
CGGVeritas Services 4 Unlock Company Profile
Qin Chuan 4 Unlock Company Profile
Rolls-Royce 3 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 3 Unlock Company Profile
TechnipFMC 3 Unlock Company Profile
Schlumberger 3 Unlock Company Profile
Exail 2 Unlock Company Profile
Schlumberger 2 Unlock Company Profile
U.S. Department of Defence 2 Unlock Company Profile
Keppel Offshore & Marine 2 Unlock Company Profile
Minesto 2 Unlock Company Profile
AP Moeller - Maersk 2 Unlock Company Profile
Korea Development Bank 2 Unlock Company Profile
CRRC Group 2 Unlock Company Profile
ARTWA 2 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Boeing is the leading patent filer in underwater ROVs due to its investment in a range of dual-use technologies relating to platform design and autonomy including underwater harvesting drones, secure and disruption-tolerant communications, and closed course submersible navigation solutions.

Some other key patent filers in this domain include Kongsberg Gruppen, Thales, and Saab.

In terms of application diversity, Boeing leads the pack, while Leidos and Rolls-Royce stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Thales held the top position, followed by Boeing and Saab.

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.