Global drone patents up by a third as commercial applications take off

The number of patents filed globally for drone technology at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has increased by 34% to 9,485 in the last year alone, up from 7,076 the year before, according to research by accountants and business advisors BDO. The firm says that the surge in the number of drone patents being filed reflects the growing competition between drone developers to expand their technology into new commercial uses.

Whilst the majority of these patents are being filed in China, the most frequent filers include Walmart and Amazon. Both hope to use drone technology to cut costs and improve efficiency in deliveries and their own internal logistics. Walmart (56) and Amazon (54) have become serial filers of drone patents and are among the top ten filers in the last year.

Amazon announced in June 2019 that it would start delivering packages via drones to customers “within months”, with its drones able to deliver to customers within a 15-mile range within 30 minutes.

Tony Spillett, Partner at BDO, said: “The number of commercial applications of drones have evolved dramatically just in the last three years, resulting in a boom in the number of patents. Both drone companies and corporates are rapidly exploring how they can use drones to deal with labour intensive or hazardous tasks.

“Like GPS, drones are being seen as a breakthrough technology that is spurring innovation in a wide range of sectors from agriculture to oil & gas production. Defence companies are looking at the use of microdrones and drone swarms, and other developers are looking at more prosaic tasks like delivering cups of coffee.”

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