The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by developments in artificial technology 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 174,000 patents filed and granted in the aerospace and defence industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Artificial Intelligence in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Imaging sensors in vehicles. 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, machine learning for autonomous navigation, battery thermal management system, and satellite image mosaicing are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. 3D image segmentation, AV on-board control systems, and lidar for 3D object detection are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas is sensor-guided aiming assists, which is now well established in the industry. 

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

Imaging sensors in vehicles is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence

Automotive imaging sensors provide greater awareness for drivers as well as potentially enable autonomous capabilities. For manned vehicles, they provide surround-view images. ‘Imaging sensors’ refers to both the hardware and software involved.  

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 50+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of imaging sensors in vehicles.

Key players in imaging sensors in vehicles – 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 imaging sensors in vehicles

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Intel 277 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 237 Unlock Company Profile
Baidu 126 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 93 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 85 Unlock Company Profile
LG 76 Unlock Company Profile
Aptiv 75 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 73 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 65 Unlock Company Profile
Nissan Motor 63 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor Group 58 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 56 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 44 Unlock Company Profile 41 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 41 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 39 Unlock Company Profile
Uatc 33 Unlock Company Profile
Uber Technologies 26 Unlock Company Profile
Continental 24 Unlock Company Profile
NVIDIA 22 Unlock Company Profile
DEKA Research and Development 19 Unlock Company Profile
Valeo 19 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 19 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 19 Unlock Company Profile
Luminar Technologies 19 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Electric 18 Unlock Company Profile
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group 16 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 15 Unlock Company Profile
Mando 15 Unlock Company Profile
Stradvision 14 Unlock Company Profile
BlackBerry 14 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing TuSimple Future Technology 13 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Mobis 11 Unlock Company Profile
Suzuki Motor 11 Unlock Company Profile
Israel Aerospace Industries 9 Unlock Company Profile
BorgWarner 9 Unlock Company Profile
Uisee Technology (Beijing) 8 Unlock Company Profile
Wipro 8 Unlock Company Profile
DAF Trucks 8 Unlock Company Profile
Nippon Seiki 8 Unlock Company Profile
Magna International 8 Unlock Company Profile
AImotive 8 Unlock Company Profile
Yandex Self Driving Group 7 Unlock Company Profile
Cybernet Systems 7 Unlock Company Profile
Mazda Motor 7 Unlock Company Profile
Wistron 7 Unlock Company Profile
Baoding Innovation Great Wall Asset Management 6 Unlock Company Profile
PACCAR 6 Unlock Company Profile
Seoul Robotics 6 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Mnsoft 6 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

The largest patent filer in this sector is Intel, which has filed patents on imaging and automated driving to advance automated driving technology. The second largest patent filer is Alphabet, which is heavily involved in the autonomous vehicle sector, and has filed patents across the sector in order to further autonomous driving capabilities. Baidu is the third largest, and is involved in developing autonomous driving capabilities by filing patents for imaging sensors, which would enhance autonomous capabilities and safety. 

Seoul Robotics has the greatest application diversity, and is seeking to commercialise autonomous vehicles by increasing sensor capabilities in the surrounding environment as well as within vehicles – the company is developing a control tower, which can give vehicles greater awareness of surroundings. Luminar Technologies has the second greatest application diversity and is filing patents for LiDAR, which will give better situational awareness and theoretically provide better safety features than existing computer vision technology. Seoul Robotics also has the largest geographic diversity, solidifying its market position. The second place is occupied by PACCAR technology, which aims to bring autonomous technology to trucks, providing potential supply chain solutions.

Whilst autonomous vehicles are not yet widespread, the technological advancement as well as variety of companies investing in the technologies will advance the technology in coming years.

To further understand how artificial intelligence is disrupting the aerospace and defence industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Thematic Research: 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.