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: Drone launching techniques.

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. Among maturing innovation areas are sensor-guided aiming assists which are now well established in the industry. 

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

Drone launching techniques is a key innovation area in robotics

Fixed-wing UAVs need to be accelerated to a certain airspeed to achieve take-off, and larger UAVs require a runway of appropriate length for take-off and landing, making the drone launching technology such a significant sector.

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 40 companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of drone launching techniques.

Key players in drone launching techniques – 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’.

SZ DJI Technology is the largest patent filing company in this sector. The company produces a number of commercial drones, as well as agri-drones and has invested in other industry level drones. The majority of the launching technologies that the company has developed so far have been utilised to enable small handheld drones to easily launch. The second largest company in the sector is KDDI which predominantly makes small commercial drones, which can be utilised for inspecting infrastructure and facilities. KDDI has developed smart drone platforms which enable easy launches. In terms of application diversity, KDDI is the top company due to the variety of industries their drones can be utilised in, and Hitachi is in second place. In terms of geographic spread, SZ DJI Technology is first, followed by KDDI .

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.