Innovation in drones: leading companies in electric aircraft power transmission systems

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The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need to lower operational costs, larger consumer trends, and electrification, and growing importance of technologies such as hydrogen and electric aircraft 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 Drones in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Electric aircraft power transmission system.

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 262,000 patents to analyse innovation intensity for the aerospace and defence industry, there are 180+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Electric aircraft power transmission system is a key emerging innovation area in drones

An electric aircraft power assembly allows power to be transmitted from batteries to the propulsive units. It is an essential component of all proposed electric aircraft systems.

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 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of electric aircraft power transmission system.

Key players in electric aircraft power transmission system – 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’.

Amongst aerospace and defence companies, Rolls-Royce is the leading patent filer in electric aircraft power train transmission systems. The company has invested heavily in recent years in electric propulsion for aircraft. In 2018, the company received £70m of funding from the UK government to stimulate next-generation aerospace technology development in the UK.

The money went towards the firm’s ACCEL programme, which sought to develop high-speed electric aircraft. In 2021, the Spirit of Innovation, an aircraft developed under the ACCEL programme, broke the speed record for electric aircraft. The firm is seeking to leverage lessons learned from the programme to deliver electric propulsion for commercial customers within the decade. In 2022, the company stated that it was targeting a 2025 rollout for a small 8-18 seat all-electric aircraft. Other key patent filers include Airbus and Safran.

In terms of application diversity, Wisk Aero holds the most widely applicable patents in electric aircraft power transmission systems. Israel Aerospace Industries came in second, and Lockheed Martin came in third. Regrading geographic reach, VoltAero held the top position, followed by Leonardo and Israel Aerospace Industries.

Electric aircraft represents a promising technological avenue for dramatically reducing the emissions produced by commercial aviation. With industry bodies and governments targeting dramatic reductions in emissions for the industries, the technology is likely to be a fixture of a future green aviation market.

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