The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with the conflict in Ukraine driving defence spending and investment, the need to combat emerging technologies such as hypersonics, and growing importance of technologies such as AI and computer vision. 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 Robotics in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Remote-controlled pick up drones. Buy the report here.

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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, collision avoidance for robotics, computer vision for autonomous navigation and autonomous control systems are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Remote-controlled pick-up drones, satellite constellation control systems and imaging sensors in vehicles are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are sensor-guided aiming assists and acoustic signalling for autonomous vehicles, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for robotics in the aerospace and defence industry

Remote-controlled pick-up drones is a key innovation area in robotics

Remotely operated drones can be utilised for securing physical facilities, and can be significantly less costly than human presence or expensive camera systems. They can be used to secure military or industry sites as needed. Pick-up drones are capable of moving things and can be leveraged for commercial or military needs.

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 defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of remote-controlled pick-up drones.

Key players in remote-controlled pick-up drones – 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 remote-controlled pick-up drones

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Wing Aviation 175 Unlock Company Profile
Walmart 135 Unlock Company Profile
United Parcel Service 70 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 62 Unlock Company Profile
Tevel Aerobotics Technologies 51 Unlock Company Profile
Rakuten Group 31 Unlock Company Profile
Hood Technology 31 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 30 Unlock Company Profile
Deutsche Post 28 Unlock Company Profile
X Development 23 Unlock Company Profile
Israel Aerospace Industries 19 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 16 Unlock Company Profile
LAITRAM 15 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 15 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 15 Unlock Company Profile
Workhorse Group 14 Unlock Company Profile
Top Flight Technologies 14 Unlock Company Profile
Senecio 13 Unlock Company Profile 12 Unlock Company Profile
AirRobot 10 Unlock Company Profile
Intellectual Ventures Management 10 Unlock Company Profile
Globeride 9 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba 9 Unlock Company Profile
Cisco Systems 8 Unlock Company Profile
Furukawa 8 Unlock Company Profile
Liebherr-International 8 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 7 Unlock Company Profile
Kitty Hawk 7 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 7 Unlock Company Profile
Creative Technologies 7 Unlock Company Profile
Ai Robotics 7 Unlock Company Profile
Indutrade 6 Unlock Company Profile
Procter & Gamble 6 Unlock Company Profile
Vitalinata Technologies 5 Unlock Company Profile
Beirobotics 5 Unlock Company Profile
Emerson Electric 5 Unlock Company Profile
Sarcos 5 Unlock Company Profile
Pearls of Wisdom Advanced Technologies 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Wing Aviation, a subsidiary of Alphabet, is the leading patent filer in the remote-controlled pick-up drones sector. The company is developing a number of delivery systems utilising pick-up drones. The aim of the company is to develop sustainable and scalable delivery ecosystems. Boeing is also a leading patent filer in the sector. It has invested in UAVs which can carry packages of up to 500 pounds and are designed to have military applications. Some other key patent filers in the sector include Tevel Aerobotics Technologies, Rakuten Group and Hood Technology.

In terms of application diversity, Indutrade is one of the leaders, followed by Tevel Aerobotics Technologies and IBM. By geographic reach, Tevel Aerobotics Technologies and Pearls of Wisdom Advanced Technologies are the leading companies.

Whilst many companies are advancing this technology in order to facilities cheaper and quicker delivery systems, the development of military pick-up drones by Boeing showcases that the technology is dual-use and commercial advances will have an effect on military capabilities.

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

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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.