The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by automation, environmental sustainability, and operational efficiency, and growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, autonomy, 3D printing/additive manufacturing, and battery technology. As modernization requirements continue to drive investment within both the civil and military aerospace sectors, widespread demand for vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) drones has incentivized significant innovation within the field of drones.  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 Drones in defense: VTOL dronesBuy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 206,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the aerospace and defense industry, there are 110 innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

VTOL drones is a key innovation area in drones

Drones that are capable of taking off and landing vertically having its flight directional axis horizontal when grounded the lift during taking-off being created by free or ducted propellers or by blowers the propellers being tiltable relative to the fuselage without the need of a runway are termed as VTOL drones. These drones are usually integrated with multiple rotors or propellers allowing them to hover and maneuver in a limited space. VTOL drones can be assigned in missions where a traditional aircraft or drone may not be suitable.

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 70+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of VTOL drones.

Key players in VTOL drones – 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 VTOL drones

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
AeroVironment 49 Unlock Company Profile
Karem Aircraft 2 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 8 Unlock Company Profile
Israel Aerospace Industries 16 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 8 Unlock Company Profile
National Aeronautics and Space Administration 8 Unlock Company Profile
Wing Aviation 20 Unlock Company Profile
United Parcel Service 28 Unlock Company Profile
Advanced Energy Industries 8 Unlock Company Profile
Topcon 2 Unlock Company Profile
Parrot 9 Unlock Company Profile
Ricoh 5 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 7 Unlock Company Profile
ThyssenKrupp 8 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 3 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 3 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 2 Unlock Company Profile
Leonardo 8 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 46 Unlock Company Profile
Shenzhen Aisidi 5 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 5 Unlock Company Profile
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency 5 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 84 Unlock Company Profile 94 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 58 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 30 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 8 Unlock Company Profile
Furukawa 7 Unlock Company Profile
GENCORE CANDEO 2 Unlock Company Profile
SZ DJI Technology 41 Unlock Company Profile
Skycatch 5 Unlock Company Profile
Top Flight Technologies 3 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon 5 Unlock Company Profile
Sunlight Photonics 10 Unlock Company Profile
Heliceo 2 Unlock Company Profile
Alakai Technologies 10 Unlock Company Profile
BridgeBio Pharma 2 Unlock Company Profile
Kitty Hawk 10 Unlock Company Profile
Volocopter 6 Unlock Company Profile
Elroy Air 8 Unlock Company Profile
X Development 3 Unlock Company Profile
xCraft 2 Unlock Company Profile
Anduril Industries 13 Unlock Company Profile
Volans-I 7 Unlock Company Profile
Quantum-Systems 2 Unlock Company Profile
Skypull 4 Unlock Company Profile
SkyX 5 Unlock Company Profile
Flugauto 2 Unlock Company Profile
Autonomous Devices 6 Unlock Company Profile
Green Theme Technologies 9 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Textron is one of the leading patent filers in VTOL drones. The company filed patent related to VTOL aircraft having fixed wing and rotorcraft configurations which is basically a configuration of an aircraft or rotorcraft to land or take off vertically. The company has also filed few more patents related to modular configurable drones, such as rocket-turbine-powered VTOL aircraft, submersible drone delivery and recovery system using waterproof aerial drone, separated lift-thrust VTOL aircraft with articulated rotors, coaxial rotor systems, adaptive transition systems and on the ground detection for VTOL aircraft,  and VTOL aircraft having multifocal landing sensors.

Some other key patent filers in this space include Boeing , AeroVironment, and Airbus.

In terms of application diversity, Quantum-Systems, SkyX, and Israel Aerospace Industries are some of the leading innovators. By means of geographic reach, some of the leading patent filers include Leonardo, Autonomous Devices, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

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