Published May 1, 2024
  • R&D in defense driving innovation in drone technology, alongside agriculture and logistics
  • Russia filing significant number of patents as drones used in conflict
  • AI is also a key part of the increase in drone patent filings.

The number of global patents filed for drone technology has increased 16% from 16,800 in 2022 to 19,700 in 2023* (including patents for drone countermeasures), shows new research from leading intellectual property (IP) law firm Mathys & Squire

Increased innovation in drone technologies has been driven by greater research and development (R&D) spending in the defense sector, the ongoing integration of AI into drone technology as well as drones that can better handle countermeasures. This reflects the growing usage of drones in military conflicts.

Russia is now in the top five countries for filing drone patents. 333 drone-related patents were filed by Russian entities in 2022 and 2023. Ukraine only filed four patents relating to drone technology over the same period.

Andrew White, Partner at Mathys & Squire, says: “Military applications now make up a significant proportion of R&D in drone technology. We’re seeing more investment in drone research from defense businesses as governments realize that they are in a literal arms race within this field.”

Industrial and commercial applications continue to drive drone innovation

Commercial applications of drone technology also continue to expand rapidly, with some emerging applications including:

  • Precision agriculture techniques for monitoring crop growth, increasing yields, and optimizing spraying processes
  • Integration with AI software for advanced mapping and surveillance capabilities
  • Facility maintenance and production line monitoring in the automotive sector.

China remains at the forefront of drone innovation, with 82% of all global drone patents filed since 2015 originating from Chinese companies. During 2023 this rose to 87%, accounting for 17,285 patent filings.  Drone manufacturer DJI of China was the most frequent filer of drone patents – filing 88 in the last year. The US was the second largest filer of drone patents, filing 858 in 2023.

With the global drone market estimated to be worth over $100 billion**, Mathys & Squire emphasizes the importance of proactive patent strategies for businesses looking to capitalize on the opportunities presented by drone technology.

White concludes, “As drones continue to be adopted across more industries, it’s crucial for businesses to safeguard their IP in this competitive space through patent protection.”

* Source: World Intellectual Property Organisation. Year end December 31, 2023

** Source: Goldman Sachs

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