Leading innovators in battery-powered aircraft

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The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the uptake of advanced technology, and the growing importance of technologies such as hypersonics and advanced materials.

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 Innovation in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Battery-powered aircraft.

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, bonded fibre laminates, thermoplastic elastomer laminates, and vibration suppression devices are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Centrifugal fan impellers, ceramic composite laminates, and gas turbine engine testing are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are protective blade coatings and blade alloy welding, which are now established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for the aerospace and defence industry

Battery-powered aircraft is a key innovation area in aerospace and defence

Battery-powered aircraft comprise electric aircraft as well as battery-powered drones and it is a fast-growing industry. Advances in battery tech are enabling its development, with increased investment in sustainability driving growth.

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 40+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of battery-powered aircraft.

Key players in battery-powered aircraft – 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 vibration suppression devices

Hyundai Motor Group is one of the leading patent filers in battery-powered aircraft. The company has a division for eVTOL aircraft, which have been heralded by some as the future of transportation. It is aiming to fully commercialise its aircraft by 2028 and has secured backing from the UK government to develop a hub for eVTOL launch, which will facilitate air taxis and autonomous delivery drones.

Airbus is the second largest patent filer in the sector and has invested in a number of sustainable solutions including electric aircraft. The company aims to create an industry standard for electric aircraft and facilitate regulatory acceptance of alternative propulsion. Other key patent filers in the industry include General Electric Co, Raytheon, and Rolls-Royce.

In terms of application diversity, Leonardo Spa leads, followed by Embraer and SoftBank Group. By geographic reach, Nileworks leads, followed by Guangzhou Xaircraft Technology and Sony Group.

This theme is rapidly advancing and will see significant patent growth in the coming years, with developments in battery tech driving uptake.

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

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.