The aerospace and defense industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by environmental sustainability, electrification, and operational efficiency, and 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: foldable solar panels. 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.

Foldable solar panels is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Foldable solar panels refer to solar panels that are designed with a flexible material and can be folded or rolled up for easy transportation and storage. These panels are typically lightweight and portable, making them convenient for outdoor activities, camping, and emergency situations. Foldable solar panels are connected to a power storage device or directly to electronic devices to harness solar energy and convert it into electricity.

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 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defense companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of foldable solar panels.

Key players in foldable solar panels – 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 foldable solar panels

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance 9 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Gas Chemical 8 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 7 Unlock Company Profile
Yupo 10 Unlock Company Profile
Toray Industries 13 Unlock Company Profile
Eastman Chemical 132 Unlock Company Profile
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Angewandten Forschung 7 Unlock Company Profile
Kuraray 1 Unlock Company Profile
CEA 6 Unlock Company Profile
Zhou Jian 1 Unlock Company Profile
Northrop Grumman 1 Unlock Company Profile
Omya International 8 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsui Chemicals 13 Unlock Company Profile
3M 15 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 3 Unlock Company Profile
Compagnie de Saint-Gobain 27 Unlock Company Profile
PPG Industries 4 Unlock Company Profile
Saudi Arabian Oil 7 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 5 Unlock Company Profile
Dow Silicones 7 Unlock Company Profile
Central Glass 6 Unlock Company Profile
Dai Nippon Printing 6 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 1 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 7 Unlock Company Profile
Innolux 1 Unlock Company Profile
EDF Renewables Reparties 9 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Chemical Group 10 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 3 Unlock Company Profile
DuPont de Nemours 9 Unlock Company Profile
Toray Industries 2 Unlock Company Profile
Corteva 2 Unlock Company Profile
Dow 11 Unlock Company Profile
Centro De Inovacoes CSEM Brasil 4 Unlock Company Profile
The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission 6 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Airbus is one of the leading patent filers in foldable solar panels for satellite applications. It filed patents for flexible solar array, photovoltaic concentrator arrangements, and thermal radiator that can be kept in an overlapping and temporarily bent shape in the stowed state prior to the launch of a spacecraft, and unfolded into a deployed state after the launched spacecraft assumes its intended trajectory in space.

The company’s Sparkwing solar panels are the world’s first commercially available off-the shelf solar array option for small spacecraft. They are available in more than twenty different panel dimensions and can be configured into different wing designs with one, two or three panels per wing.

US-based Masten Space Systems (Masten) selected customized Sparkwing solar panels for its Xelene (XL-1) lunar lander. Intended to enable robotic delivery and operations for Masten’s early missions to the Moon, XL-1 primarily relies on solar energy with support from a lithium-ion battery system. The hexagonally shaped vehicle has solar panels on its multiple sides to ensure consistent power generation as required by the mission profile.

Some other key innovators in this space include Raytheon Technologies, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing.

In terms of application diversity, CEA, EDF Renewables Reparties, and French Alternative are some of the leading innovators. By means of geographic reach, some of the leading patent filers include Mitsui Chemicals, Mitsubishi, and EDF Renewables Reparties.

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.