The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the pressing need for modernisation, and the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence and unmanned systems. 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 Soldier modernization in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Galvano-scanners.

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, bonded fibre laminates, thermoplastic elastomer laminates, and vibration supression devices are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Centrifugal fan impellers, ceramic composite laminates, and gas turbine engine testing are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are protective blade coatings and blade alloy welding, which are now well established in the industry.  

Innovation S-curve for the aerospace and defence industry 

Galvano-scanners is a key innovation area in aerospace and defence 

Galvanometer optical scanners, also known as Galvos or Galvano-scanners, are critical components for laser beam directors and scanning technologies. Galvano scanners utilise motorised mirror mounts to rapidly and accurately re-direct small laser beams, and are thus crucial to a variety of technologies which rely on lasers for targeting and navigation, such as LiDAR sensors for unmanned vehicles. 

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 30 companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of galvano-scanners. 

Key players in galvano-scanners – 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’. 

Apple is the global leader in terms of patent filing regarding galvano-scanner technology, as galvos are critical to the production of iPhone facial scanning technologies. Innoviz Technologies is the second most prolific patent filer over the last several years, with numerous applications involving novel galvano-scanner architectures for use in LiDAR sensors. Boeing and Raytheon Technologies are the two main players in this field specific to the defence industry, with both firms researching methods of optimising galvano-scanners for applications in a range of vehicle or weapons guidance systems. Some other key patent filers in the automotive industry include Alphabet , General Motors , Ford Motor , Amazon.com , and Toyota Motor

In terms of application diversity, Mitsui Chemicals has published the most diverse range of patent applications, followed by Hexagon in second place and Kyocera ranking third globally. As for total geographic reach, Kawasaki Heavy Industries held the top position, followed by Boeing and Alphabet

As LiDAR technology continues to gain traction due to its applications in the unmanned or autonomous systems domain, demand for galvano-scanners is set to increase within the aerospace and defence industry, as well as other industries such as the automotive and technology markets due to the technical overlap. This rising demand could provide the catalyst for increased investment from defence firms active in associated markets such as unmanned systems or directed energy weapons development. The modernisation of dismounted soldier systems increasingly involves the integration of emerging capabilities such as drones and laser targeting systems, thus expertise in the design and manufacture of galvano-scanners will prove valuable over the coming decades. 

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.