The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by environmental sustainability, electrification, and operational efficiency, and the growing importance of technologies such as hydrogen and electric aircraft and advanced materials. 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 Environmental sustainability in defense: electric-hydrogen hybrid. Buy 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.

Electric-hydrogen hybrid systems is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

An electric-hydrogen hybrid system refers to a combination of an electric system and a hydrogen-based system in a vehicle or aircraft. In this system, electricity is generated from a fuel cell powered by hydrogen, which is then used to power an electric motor. The hydrogen can be stored in tanks and easily refueled, providing a longer range compared to purely electric vehicles. The hybrid system offers a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to conventional combustion engines, reducing emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

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 90+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of electric-hydrogen hybrid systems.

Key players in electric-hydrogen hybrid systems – 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 electric-hydrogen hybrid systems

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Liebherr-International 26 Unlock Company Profile
Rolls-Royce 16 Unlock Company Profile
Diehl Stiftung 27 Unlock Company Profile
Thales 12 Unlock Company Profile
Melrose Industries 15 Unlock Company Profile
Compagnie Generale des Etablissements Michelin 13 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 39 Unlock Company Profile
IHI 17 Unlock Company Profile
NACCO Materials Handling Group 8 Unlock Company Profile
Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft 7 Unlock Company Profile
Lynntech 6 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 32 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 37 Unlock Company Profile
CEA 50 Unlock Company Profile
Naval Group 36 Unlock Company Profile
Snecma 8 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 43 Unlock Company Profile
U.S. Department of Defence 6 Unlock Company Profile
ThyssenKrupp 47 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 21 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 10 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 99 Unlock Company Profile
Ballard Power Systems 8 Unlock Company Profile
Doosan 27 Unlock Company Profile
Aviva 6 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 18 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 124 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 104 Unlock Company Profile
Korea Development Bank 68 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 357 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 7 Unlock Company Profile
Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt 9 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 9 Unlock Company Profile
Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering 47 Unlock Company Profile
Zodiac Seats France 9 Unlock Company Profile
SZ DJI Technology 9 Unlock Company Profile
EADS Deutschland 12 Unlock Company Profile
Meditor European Master Fund 30 Unlock Company Profile
ArianeGroup 12 Unlock Company Profile
Alakai Technologies 6 Unlock Company Profile
Aurora Innovation 8 Unlock Company Profile
Linde 8 Unlock Company Profile
HD Hyundai 65 Unlock Company Profile
ZeroAvia 11 Unlock Company Profile
Centre National Research Scientific 6 Unlock Company Profile
Spawnt 6 Unlock Company Profile
Guangdong Hydrogen Energy Science and Technology 7 Unlock Company Profile
Universal Hydrogen 15 Unlock Company Profile
PowiDian 7 Unlock Company Profile
The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission 39 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is one of the leading patent filers in electric-hydrogen hybrid engines. The company is at the forefront of innovation in alternative propulsion systems and hybrid powered aircraft. It unveiled a fuel cell-powered aircraft engine called ZEROe in November 2022. Expected to enter commercial service by 2035, the low-carbon engine will use hydrogen as a power source for aircraft propulsion. The engine design incorporates a hydrogen gas turbine, which can be paired with fuel cells instead of batteries in a hybrid-electric architecture, with fuel cells converting hydrogen into electricity to propel the engine.

Some other key patent filers in the electric-hydrogen hybrid propulsion space include Safran, Boeing, and Raytheon Technologies.

In terms of application diversity, Thales, Snecma, and Rolls-Royce are some of the leading innovators. By means of geographic reach, some of the leading patent filers include Thales, Safran, and Diehl Stiftung.

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