Patents granted for drones worldwide have increased by 39% to 4,876 in the past year*, shows new research by leading intellectual property law firm Mathys & Squire. The figure is up from 3,511 in the previous year and up three-fold from just 446 patents five years ago.
Mathys & Squire says the global drone market is dominated by China. Of the patents granted in 2021, 3,262 (67%) belong to Chinese companies and research institutions. The US trails in second place, with 751 drone-related patents granted in 2021 – 15% of the global total.
Drone technology is being employed across a growing list of sectors, including agriculture, construction, energy, news reporting and delivery of emergency medicine and supplies.
The commercial drone market is predicted to be worth $47bn by 2029**, while estimates suggest the military market could be worth $98bn by the end of the current decade***. While some of the expected applications in the commercial drone market (such as home delivery services, including fast-food!) have yet to fully materialise, new commercial uses for drones are constantly being developed.
Manufacturers are competing to corner as much of this rapidly growing market as they can by registering patents to protect their often considerable R&D investments.
China dominates the global drone market. Image credit: Shutterstock
Andrew White, Partner at Mathys & Squire says: “Drones are increasingly becoming part of everyday life, yet the strong growth in new patents suggests their full potential is still to be realised.”
“Drones are set to play a major role in the global economy in the 21st century. IP in this area is extremely valuable and therefore likely to be hotly contested in the coming years. Companies are spending considerable sums on drone research and will want that investment to be protected with patents.”
Patents related to drone technology granted last year include:
- A fire extinguishing drone for communication wires and other hard to reach infrastructure
- An unmanned aerial vehicle-based virtual reality touring and sightseeing system
- A drone-based system for measuring atmospheric pollution
- A drone-based system for monitoring buildings for cracks and structural weaknesses
- A drone-based system for pollinating strawberries
- An amphibious unmanned aerial vehicle for measuring water quality
- An aerial mask-dispensing machine for use during pandemics
- A drone-based system to detect oil pollution in water
- A drone-based system for monitoring the safety of oil and gas pipelines
- A real-time landslide prediction and early warning system using drones
- An early warning system for forest fires
- A drone-based system for filtering factory exhaust gases
- An unmanned aerial vehicle capable of drilling blasting holes in rock walls
Number of drone patents granted worldwide, 2012-2022
* Year ending December 31 2021, Source: World Intellectual Property Organisation
**Source: Fortune Business Insights
***Source: Teal Group
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