The prevalent use of unmanned vehicles in military and civilian applications requires the existence of robust and high throughput communication with airborne platforms. Real channel measurements are conducted and the analysis supports the use of MIMO communications for such applications due to its potential throughput advantage. Unique challenges and the ways to address them are described in detail. In particular, the lack of scattering and the blockage of line of sight may lead to rank deficient channel matrices, which are exacerbated due to the absence of channel state information at the transmitter. A variable rate MIMO scheme is proposed to overcome these challenges in order to realize the promising throughput gain afforded by MIMO communication.