The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the increasing capability and applicability of drones, coupled with falling costs, and growing importance of technologies such as quadcopters, drone modularisation, and high-altitude platform stations (HAPS). 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 Drones in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Battery-powered drones. 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.

Battery-powered drones is a key innovation area in drones

Battery-powered drones are distinct from conventionally fuelled drones and tend to be smaller. Commercial, civil, and recreational drones tend to be battery-powered.

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 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of battery-powered drones.

Key players in battery-powered drones – 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 battery-powered drones

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Raytheon Technologies 32 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 23 Unlock Company Profile
Leonardo 19 Unlock Company Profile
Rolls-Royce Holdings 17 Unlock Company Profile
SZ DJI Technology 16 Unlock Company Profile
SoftBank Group 11 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 9 Unlock Company Profile
Rakuten Group 7 Unlock Company Profile
H3 Dynamics Holdings 7 Unlock Company Profile
Nileworks 6 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 6 Unlock Company Profile
Guangzhou Xaircraft Technology 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Raytheon Technologies, a leading patent filer in battery-powered drones in the aerospace and defence domain, is involved in the development of air management systems for small battery-powered drones. In June 2019, Raytheon Technologies signed a strategic agreement with AirMap to collaborate on helping users safely fly small unmanned aerial systems in the National Airspace System.

In 2020, Raytheon Intelligence & Space announced a new long-term strategic relationship with SkyGrid to integrate RI&S’ MARS platform, including air traffic management capabilities, radars and surveillance technologies, with SkyGrid’s AerialOS. In 2021, Raytheon Intelligence & Space received an award to advance Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLoS) operations in the National Airspace System, supporting unmanned aircraft systems integration into the NAS through strategic partnerships with academia and industry. Other key patent filers include Airbus and Leonardo.

In terms of application diversity, Guangzhou Xaircraft Technology holds the most widely applicable patents related to battery-powered drones, with SoftBank and Leonardo coming in second and third, respectively. By geographic reach, Nileworks holds the leading position, followed by Gaungzhou Xaircraft Technology and H3 Dynamics.

Small battery-powered drones are likely to become an increasingly common fixture of modern life, fulfilling roles in communications, construction, agriculture, logistics, and more.

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