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. Buy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 262,000 patents to analyse innovation intensity for the aerospace and defence industry, there are 180+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the 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. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to drone launching techniques

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Boeing 170 Unlock Company Profile
United Parcel Service 65 Unlock Company Profile
AeroVironment 59 Unlock Company Profile
Hood Technology 58 Unlock Company Profile
SZ DJI Technology 49 Unlock Company Profile
Aerovel 35 Unlock Company Profile
Wing Aviation 33 Unlock Company Profile
Walmart 33 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 23 Unlock Company Profile
Workhorse Group 18 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 16 Unlock Company Profile
Ocado Group 15 Unlock Company Profile
Zero 12 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 11 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 11 Unlock Company Profile
Nidec 11 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 10 Unlock Company Profile 10 Unlock Company Profile
Wintec Arrowmaker 9 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 8 Unlock Company Profile
Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson 8 Unlock Company Profile
Asylon 8 Unlock Company Profile
Deutsche Post 8 Unlock Company Profile
Guangzhou Xaircraft Technology 8 Unlock Company Profile
ThyssenKrupp 8 Unlock Company Profile
Tribune Broadcasting 8 Unlock Company Profile
H3 Dynamics Holdings 7 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 7 Unlock Company Profile
Matternet 7 Unlock Company Profile
Zipline 7 Unlock Company Profile
Ai Robotics 7 Unlock Company Profile
Sarcos 6 Unlock Company Profile
Kitty Hawk 6 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor Group 6 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 6 Unlock Company Profile
Elbit Systems 6 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 6 Unlock Company Profile
Kespry 6 Unlock Company Profile
LAITRAM 5 Unlock Company Profile
Korean Air Lines 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

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.

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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.