The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the pressing need for modernization, and the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and unmanned systems.  In the last three years alone, there have been over 237,000 patents filed and granted in the aerospace and defense industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in defense: coherent LIDAR imaging. 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 stabilizing 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.

110 innovations will shape the aerospace and defense industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the aerospace and defense industry using innovation intensity models built on over 206,000 patents, there are 110 innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, satellite-based positioning, GPS augmentation, and LiDAR-sonar fusion are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. LiDAR weather forecasting, coherent LiDAR imaging, and LiDAR solid state photodetectors are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing.

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the aerospace and defense industry

Coherent LIDAR imaging is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Coherent light detection and ranging (LIDAR) imaging is a technology that uses laser light to measure distances to objects and create 3D maps of the surrounding environment. LIDAR imaging works by emitting laser pulses and measuring the time it takes for the pulses to bounce back from objects in the environment, allowing for accurate measurement of distances and creation of detailed 3D maps.

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 230+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of coherent LIDAR imaging.

Key players in coherent LIDAR imaging – a disruptive innovation in the aerospace and defense industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

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

Patent volumes related to coherent LiDAR imaging

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Marelli 17 Unlock Company Profile
Huawei Investment & Holding 85 Unlock Company Profile
Fujifilm 66 Unlock Company Profile
Koito Manufacturing 26 Unlock Company Profile
Swarovski International 32 Unlock Company Profile
Thales 46 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 18 Unlock Company Profile
Topcon 87 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 166 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 147 Unlock Company Profile
Hexagon 57 Unlock Company Profile
Apple 59 Unlock Company Profile
Pioneer 21 Unlock Company Profile
Faro Technologies 181 Unlock Company Profile
Ricoh 23 Unlock Company Profile
Northrop Grumman 27 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Electric 89 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 118 Unlock Company Profile
ResMed 21 Unlock Company Profile
Canon 29 Unlock Company Profile
Kyocera 35 Unlock Company Profile
Winbond Electronics 20 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 23 Unlock Company Profile
BASF 66 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 267 Unlock Company Profile
Stanley Electric 24 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 19 Unlock Company Profile
LG 26 Unlock Company Profile
RichWave Technology 20 Unlock Company Profile
STMicroelectronics 35 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 82 Unlock Company Profile
The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory 18 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba 51 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 28 Unlock Company Profile
Nikon 23 Unlock Company Profile
Hamamatsu Photonics KK 43 Unlock Company Profile
Furukawa 18 Unlock Company Profile
Sick 27 Unlock Company Profile
Quanergy Systems 25 Unlock Company Profile
SZ DJI Technology 37 Unlock Company Profile
Innoviz Technologies 70 Unlock Company Profile
Semiconductor Energy Laboratory 20 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 50 Unlock Company Profile
Aurora Innovation 48 Unlock Company Profile
AEye 121 Unlock Company Profile
Ouster 52 Unlock Company Profile
Baraja 34 Unlock Company Profile
Luminar Technologies 91 Unlock Company Profile
Aeva Technologies 23 Unlock Company Profile
Envisics 25 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Northrop Grumman is one of the leading patent filers in coherent LiDAR imaging. One of the patents filed by the company is related to a method of scanning a transmitted beam over a 360° field of view (FOV), processing the beam reflected from the target, and measuring the distance to the target, without using any moving parts in the LiDAR system.

The method includes a coherent light source that produces frequency-controlled light in response to a command signal. The laser beam is directed to one surface of a spiral phase plate resonator (SPPR) and exits from different regions of the other surface of the resonator depending on the frequency of the light.

The Pathfinder reconnaissance drone being developed by Northrop Grumman can be fitted with a LiDAR unit to generate detailed spatial reconstruction data through 3D mapping. It can provide troops with a real-time awareness of the layout, obstacles, and hazards involved in a dangerous urban environment or a building interior inaccessible to global positioning system (GPS) data.

Some other key patent filers in this space include Thales, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.

In terms of application diversity, Faro Technologies, Alphabet, and Huawei are some of the leading innovators. By means of geographic reach, some of the leading patent filers include Semiconductor Energy Laboratory, Innoviz Technologies, and Boeing.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the aerospace and defense industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Aerospace & 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.