• Avanee Tewari

Flying High: Patents in the Aerospace Industry

INTRODUCTION


In order to keep up with the customer needs, the aviation industry, like any other competitive industry, needs to constantly keep innovating. The world of aviation involves a lot of research, new design ideas, technological innovation and cost-effective means to manufacture.


SCOPE OF PATENTS IN THE AVIATION INDUSTRY

Air transport is the fastest and most preferred way of transportation. However, even after several decades since its invention, there are multiple possible new technologies that are capable of benefiting and boosting the said industry; making the aviation industry ripe for innovation and monetization. For example, there are a large number of inventions that are focused towards making air transportation more secure and environment friendly.


Structure focused Patents


Airbus Corporations has filed a patent for a round shaped aircraft that shall be able to accommodate more passengers than a traditional plane. Furthermore, the plane's proposed flying wing design, is believed to increase the speed as well as fuel efficiency.


Airbus has also patented designs for a range of new double decker super-size aircraft. In its new design of aircrafts, Airbus has added more vertical height to aircraft’s fuselage and has reduced its horizontal length. It claims that the new designs would also enable fast embarking and disembarking for passengers from the aircraft.

Further, another of Airbus' patent proposes a modular cabin into which passengers/goods can be seated/loaded prior to the arrival of the plane. Thereafter, the said loaded cabin would be attached to the plane, cutting down the time and cost it takes to prepare planes for flight. The patent document says the cabins could be modified "for transport of passengers, luggage, freight or combinations thereof." As per Airbus' model, airplane fuselages become trucks, pulling up at airports to get their next container of people, before taking off again.


Customer focused Patents


Airborne Wireless Network’s patent describes a method of synchronizing laser-links between aircrafts enabling commercial airplanes to act as communications satellites. The said link would increase data transfer speeds. Further, the broadband transceivers, as placed on the airplane would act as signal repeaters capable of providing wireless signals all over the world.


Safety focused Patents


As per a patent filed by Recaro, an aircraft seat manufacturing company, addition of airbags in some airplane seats was a necessary safety measure. The said airbags would protect passengers from hitting their heads on the seats in front of them in cases of turbulence.



INDIAN CONTEXT

As per the Airports Council International, India is the world’s third-largest aviation market. The aviation industry makes up for 0.5% of the Indian GDP. Further, the aviation industry has created around 1.7 million jobs in India. Thus, it is safe to say that the Indian Aviation industry is at an all time high.


The Indian aviation industry is dominated by global players like Boeing, Airbus Group, Raytheon etc. with respect to the matters involving the launch of new technologies. Traditionally, in India, the focus was aircraft manufacturing and structural design; and not technologies related to aerodynamics, engine, alternative fuel formulation, air traffic system etc.


However, there has been a shift in this mindset, and several Indian organizations have developed technologies for which they have been granted patents. One of the most interesting technologies has been made by Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO).

As a part of the Make in India initiative, the DRDO developed a floating Black Box for airplanes that self-ejects after an accident and self-activates when it comes in contact with water and sends homing signals for easy detection. With the improved version of the Black Box, the DRDO aims to solve the problem of missing aircrafts.


Another technological breakthrough has been made by Blue Star, who has been granted three patents for - System and Method for Maintaining Optimum Condensing Temperature at Low Load in Heating Mode in VRF systems: capability to detect the fall in the temperature and proportionally increase the compressor’s output in order to maintain an optimum level of condensing temperature; Refrigerant Recovery in Multi-Air Conditioner System: helps in detecting shortage of refrigerant and; Method and System for Maintaining Uninterrupted Cooling Operation by VRF Systems at High Pressure: provides a unique system operation feature to overcome high pressure tripping issues.

CONCLUSION

115 years after the invention of airplanes, the aviation industry is at its peak in terms of innovation. Currently, every aspect of the existing industry is being viewed with an angle of upgradation, either of technological or design.


There are multiple possibilities for modifications - communications and software solutions to allow internet access to passengers, creation of more seating space on planes, etc. all while meeting safety regulations. Further, apart from the software/technical additions, airlines are also indulging in structural changes – placement of table tray, overhead bin designs and virtual reality helmets attached to the passenger seats etc. The application of new technologies in aviation is helping reduce turnaround time on the ground for maintenance and safety checks.


In view of the above, it is clear that the aviation and transportation technologies markets shall continue to grow, and thus, new inventions and innovations shall increase, thereby ensuring the need for robust patent protection.




For any questions, please feel free to write to the author, Ms. Avanee Tewari, at avanee.tewari@iprattorneys.com.

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