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 emerging 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 Internet of Things in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Aircraft powertrain control.

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, aircraft powertrain controls, remote-controlled drones, and aircraft anti-collision systems are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. UAV swarm control, lidar for vehicle anti-collision, and satellite image smoothing techniques are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are sensor-guided aiming assists and aircraft flight control systems, which are now well established in the industry. 

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

Aircraft powertrain control is a key innovation area in Internet of Things 

The powertrain of an aircraft relates to the propulsion of the platform. Increasingly advanced systems of control over the powertrain are being developed, allowing for greater efficiency within the system, enhanced monitoring, and control over the workings of the powertrain. On an aircraft, the powertrain control system will interact with and monitor components such as the ignition, propellor, and systems relating to the aircraft fuel supply. 

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 20 companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of aircraft powertrain control. 

Key players in aircraft powertrain control – 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 aircraft powertrain control

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Hyundai Motor Group 65 Unlock company profile
Kia 27 Unlock company profile
Hitachi 25 Unlock company profile
General Motors 19 Unlock company profile
SZ DJI Technology 17 Unlock company profile
Rolls-Royce Holdings 16 Unlock company profile
Boeing 15 Unlock company profile
H55 13 Unlock company profile
Wisk Aero 12 Unlock company profile
General Electric 12 Unlock company profile
LENR Cars 9 Unlock company profile
Airbus 8 Unlock company profile
Icon Polymer Group 8 Unlock company profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 7 Unlock company profile
Siemens 7 Unlock company profile
Ford Motor 6 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 6 Unlock company profile
HADAL 6 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 6 Unlock company profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Rolls-Royce is one of the leading patent filers in aircraft powertrain control. Rolls-Royce has submitted numerous patents relating to powertrain control, including methods of intelligent integrated controls systems, and for hybrid turbo electric aero-propulsion systems. Wisk Aero, a relatively young aerospace company (founded in 2019), has submitted numerous patents relating to powertrain control as it seeks to develop its flagship platform, an all-electric eVTOL air taxi. Some other key patent filers in the aerospace and defence industry include Boeing, Wisk Aero, and General Electric.

In terms of application diversity, Rolls-Royce leads the pack, followed by Siemens and Boeing, respectively. By geographic reach, Siemens held the top position, followed by Rolls-Royce, Wisk Aero, and General Electric.

Aircraft powertrain control is seeing investment from both well-established OEMs and primes, such as Rolls-Royce and General Electric, and newer, disrupting companies such as Wisk Aero

To further understand how Internet of Things is disrupting the aerospace and defence industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Thematic Research - Internet of Military Things

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.