The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by developments in artificial technology and machine learning, and the growing importance of technologies such as drones, satellite technology and big data. 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 Artificial Intelligence in Aerospace, Defence & Security: 3D image segmentation.

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, machine learning for autonomous navigation, battery thermal management system, and satellite image mosaicing are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. 3D image segmentation, AV on-board control systems, and lidar for 3D object detection are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas is sensor-guided aiming assists, which is now well established in the industry.  

Innovation S-curve for artificial intelligence in the aerospace and defence industry 

3D image segmentation is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence 

3D image segmentation means that 3D imaging including computed tomography (CT), micro-computer tomography or MRI scanning can be labelled to isolate regions of interest.  

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 120+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of 3D image segmentation. 

Key players in 3D image segmentation – 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 3D image segmentation

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Alphabet 159 Unlock company profile
Pictometry International 131 Unlock company profile
Boeing 108 Unlock company profile
Raytheon Technologies 98 Unlock company profile
SZ DJI Technology 88 Unlock company profile
Intel 78 Unlock company profile
Baidu 77 Unlock company profile
Microsoft 54 Unlock company profile
Eagle View Technologies 54 Unlock company profile
Sony Group 51 Unlock company profile
EagleView Technologies 51 Unlock company profile
Hexagon 45 Unlock company profile
Maxar Technologies 39 Unlock company profile
Panasonic 37 Unlock company profile
Faro Technologies 36 Unlock company profile
Samsung Group 34 Unlock company profile
Airbus 34 Unlock company profile
Amazon.com 33 Unlock company profile
Verisk Analytics 33 Unlock company profile
Secom 32 Unlock company profile
International Business Machines 31 Unlock company profile
Here 29 Unlock company profile
LG 28 Unlock company profile
TomTom 28 Unlock company profile
Qualcomm 28 Unlock company profile
BAE Systems 28 Unlock company profile
NEC 27 Unlock company profile
Honeywell International 27 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Electric 27 Unlock company profile
Meta Platforms 27 Unlock company profile
Fujifilm Holdings 26 Unlock company profile
IHI 25 Unlock company profile
L3Harris Technologies 25 Unlock company profile
Tencent Holdings 21 Unlock company profile
Loveland Innovations 21 Unlock company profile
Thales 21 Unlock company profile
Hitachi 19 Unlock company profile
Microvision 18 Unlock company profile
Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt 18 Unlock company profile
Didi Global 17 Unlock company profile
Autel Robotics USA 17 Unlock company profile
Shenzhen Goodix Technology 17 Unlock company profile
TerraClear 16 Unlock company profile
Geomni 16 Unlock company profile
Beijing TuSimple Future Technology 15 Unlock company profile
Orbital Insight 15 Unlock company profile
MBDA France 15 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 14 Unlock company profile
Chang Guang Satellite Technology 14 Unlock company profile
Cognex 14 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Alphabet is the leading company in 3D image segmentation, whilst the company has largely developed its skill in the technology only to the theoretical stage and is likely to develop the technology further. Pictometry International is the second largest patent filer and has developed an image modelling system which utilises 3D image segmentation. Some other key patent filers include Boeing, Raytheon Technologies and SZ DJI Technology. 

In terms of application diversity, LG is the leader, followed by Alphabet and Meta. By geographic reach, Microvision is the leading company, followed by TomTom and Meta. 

Whilst the existing applications skew towards healthcare and technology, defence applications include mission planning, training and situational awareness and we will likely see increased patents in these sectors in coming years. 

To further understand how artificial intelligence is disrupting the aerospace and defence industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Thematic Research: AI in Defense

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.