10 UAV Jobs of the Future

Aerial ISP
An employee of MAVinci assembles a camera-quipped Sirius UAV in Germany. Hundreds of projects in Europe are underway to develop civilian UAVs. © RALPH ORLOWSKI/Reuters/Corbis

Internet.org has a lofty goal, providing affordable high-speed Internet access to every single person on the planet. The proposed solution is even loftier – literally. The Facebook-led initiative is building a fleet of solar-powered drones that will beam down the Internet to rural and remote communities from 65,000 feet (20 kilometers) [source: Zuckerberg].

Two-thirds of the world is currently without high-speed Internet access [source: Zuckerberg]. For Internet.org, this represents a tremendous untapped resource of world-changing ideas waiting to be shared. The idea is to provide a source of wireless Internet connectivity that's more cost-effective than building thousands of cell phone-style radio towers, but more powerful than a distant satellite.

In late 2014, Airbus unveiled Zephyr, a super-lightweight drone covered in paper-thin solar cells that continuously recharges its battery-powered electric engines for potentially endless flight. Satellites typically circumvent our planet at 250 miles (402 kilometers) from Earth's surface, but Zephyr can be stationed at a fixed point at 65,000 feet (19,812 meters) for long periods. The lower altitude means a stronger signal can be beamed to a wide swath of users [source: Grobart].

Facebook's Internet.org snatched up some of Zephyr's creators to work on its own solar-powered drones, and Google recently bought Titan Aerospace – another manufacturer of high-altitude drones – to pursue its own initiative for global Internet connectivity [sources: Zuckerberg, BBC].

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