The technology industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the amalgamation of technological progress, heightened connectivity, and the urgency for businesses to enhance efficiency and competitiveness in an ever-changing marketplace, and growing importance of technologies such as flight control systems, global navigation satellite systems, onboard sensors, and communication systems. These technologies work together to enable autonomous vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOLs) to navigate, avoid obstacles, maintain stable flight, and execute complex missions without human intervention. In the last three years alone, there have been over 3.6 million patents filed and granted in the technology industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Artificial Intelligence: Autonomous VTOLs. Buy the report here.

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.

300+ innovations will shape the technology industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the technology industry using innovation intensity models built on over 2.5 million patents, there are 300+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, finite element simulation, ML-enabled blockchain networks, and generative adversarial network (GAN) are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Demand forecasting applications, intelligent embedded systems, and deep reinforcement learning are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas, wearable physiological monitors, smart lighting, and smart climate control systems, are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for artificial Intelligence in the technology industry

Autonomous VTOLs is a key innovation area in artificial Intelligence

An autonomous vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft  possesses the capability to ascend and descend vertically, navigate horizontally, and land vertically without relying on human intervention. They offer versatility for numerous applications, such as search and rescue operations, surveillance missions, cargo transportation, and various other purposes.

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 170 companies, spanning technology vendors, established technology companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of autonomous VTOLs.

Key players in autonomous VTOLs – a disruptive innovation in the technology 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 autonomous VTOLs.

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
SZ DJI Technology 879 Unlock Company Profile 144 Unlock Company Profile
Walmart 141 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 139 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 136 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 127 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 95 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 90 Unlock Company Profile
Wing Aviation 89 Unlock Company Profile
GoPro 88 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 87 Unlock Company Profile
Guangzhou Xaircraft Technology 81 Unlock Company Profile
LG 81 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines (IBM) 79 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 77 Unlock Company Profile
Parrot 76 Unlock Company Profile
Autel Robotics USA 66 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 58 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 48 Unlock Company Profile
Pictometry International 46 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 45 Unlock Company Profile
ETAK Systems 45 Unlock Company Profile
Tevel Aerobotics Technologies 44 Unlock Company Profile
AeroVironment 44 Unlock Company Profile
Skydio 43 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 42 Unlock Company Profile
Israel Aerospace Industries 36 Unlock Company Profile
Proxy Technologies 31 Unlock Company Profile
Rakuten Group 30 Unlock Company Profile
Deere 30 Unlock Company Profile
Halliburton 29 Unlock Company Profile
SoftBank Group 29 Unlock Company Profile
Xiaomi 29 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 26 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 26 Unlock Company Profile
FedEx 25 Unlock Company Profile
Here 25 Unlock Company Profile
Teledyne Technologies 25 Unlock Company Profile
Nokia 25 Unlock Company Profile
Loveland Innovations 25 Unlock Company Profile
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance 24 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 23 Unlock Company Profile
Yamaha Motor 23 Unlock Company Profile
Alarmcom 22 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 22 Unlock Company Profile
Topcon 21 Unlock Company Profile
Northrop Grumman 20 Unlock Company Profile
X Development 20 Unlock Company Profile 19 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 19 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

SZ DJI Technology is one of the leading patent filers in autonomous VTOLs. The company’s patents are aimed at describing devices and methods for controlling positioning of a payload on an unmanned aerial vehicle. A carrier as described herein may provide movement of a payload relative to a central body or one or more propulsion units of the unmanned aerial vehicle.

The payload may move above and below the central body or the one or more propulsion units. The carrier may comprise one or more guides, a first actuator and a second actuator. The first actuator may permit the payload to translate with respect to the one or more guides and the second actuator may permit the payload to rotate about one or more axes of rotation with respect to the one or more guides. Therefore, the positioning of the payload may be well controlled, and the movability and manoeuvrability of the payload may be increased.

Other prominent patent filers in the space include Amazon and Walmart

In terms of geographical reach, Tevel Aerobotics Technologies leads the pack, followed by Torquing Group and BCB International. In terms of application diversity, Cloudparc holds the top position, followed by Isolynx and Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies. 

Autonomous VTOLs have the potential to revolutionise transportation, emergency services, surveillance, logistics, and commercial operations. They offer increased flexibility, rapid response capabilities, reduced infrastructure requirements, and potential environmental benefits.  

To further understand how artificial Intelligence is disrupting the technology industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Thematic Intelligence.

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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.