By Clay Dillow, contributor
FORTUNE -- Charles Taylor did not set out to become a drone pilot. An avid fan of remote-controlled planes, Taylor didn't know much about unmanned aircraft outside the occasional news of military Predator strikes. But in August 2012 the University of North Dakota grad was among the first to receive a bachelor's degree tailored to unmanned-aircraft operations.
Civilian airspace will be open to unmanned traffic in 2015, creating demand for pilots -- part aeronautical engineer, part physicist, part software coder. Analysts predict global spending on drones will double over the next decade, to $11.4 billion. Potential markets range from law enforcement to wildlife management and oil and gas discovery.
Academia and business are co-creating programs to churn out qualified graduates. The University of North Dakota was the first to offer a specific degree program in 2009. It has roughly 120 majors today. Many are drawn by the prospect of high pay: Salaries average $100,000. And aerospace giants General Dynamics (GD), Northrop Grumman (NOC), Boeing (BA), and Lockheed Martin (LMT) are hoping to replace their retiring rank and file with drone-trained grads.
Taylor and his peers are among the first products of this effort. Just two weeks after circulating his résumé, the 23-year-old had something many in this economy dream of: prospects for a lucrative career.
This story is from the January 14, 2013 issue of Fortune.
More from The Future Issue
With hackers running riot on the Internet, here's how you can get paid to stop them.
By Alex Konrad, contributor
FORTUNE -- Don't let the headlines about New Corp.'s (NWSA) recent phone follies give you the wrong idea about hacking: Cyber crime is only getting more complex and dangerous, but it is creating new jobs for people who want to fight it. Recent high-profile hacks of government sites, Citigroup (C), and Sony MOREJul 22, 2011 5:00 AM ET
Boeing's long-delayed 787 Dreamliner finally took flight on Tuesday to the ecstatic cheers of thousands watching from a wet runway at Paine Field in Everett, WA. The composite wings flexed, and the Rolls-Royce engines roared as the first entirely new commercial jet from the Boeing Co. since launching the 777 in 1995 headed out toward the Pacific for a four-hour spin.
(Click here to tour the inside of the Boeing 787)
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