So, things are getting pretty weird overhead. On Memorial Day weekend, the club Marquee in Las Vegas launched drone bottle service for daytime VIPs. A few weeks before that, Francesco’s Pizzeria in Mumbai delivered a pie to the roof of a 21-story apartment building. It was a stunt, but it proved that drones could cut a 30-minute delivery to 10. Pizza, invariably, leads one to ask, What about the beer? For that, Schell’s Brewery in Minnesota had the answer: drones shuttling cold ones to anyone within range. Somewhat disappointingly, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded the service, citing safety concerns.
Every once in a while, devices develop beyond their original purpose into something more. Phones made the leap in the late 1990s. What was once a corded voice-transmission device is now a wireless platform for managing our lives. Drones sit at a similar inflection point. Though hardly new—Marilyn Monroe, then Norma Jeane Dougherty, worked building drones during World War II—unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) now benefit from the same magic cocktail that helped power the rise of Silicon Valley: cheaper components, smaller sensors, more powerful processors, and greater connectivity.
Popular Science has been covering UAVs since the beginning, but I daresay this time is different. The FAA will most likely roll out the first commercial drone regulation in 2015, and states are already vying for toeholds in the drone economy. This month’s cover story is meant to be a handbook for the approaching drone age, a primer on the helpful and bizarre ways people now use drones and the exciting (and potentially terrifying) ways they could use them in the future.
For a magazine that embraces the near future, drones make a natural cover story. But in this month’s science-fiction collection, we thought it a fun challenge to peer even farther ahead. We asked 10 of today’s top science–fiction writers to describe what the world might look like in the decades and centuries to come. The results will surprise you.
Speaking of surprises, we have a welcome announcement: We are launching a special sci-fi issue for the iPad, a bonus to all subscribers who request it (and available for purchase to non-subscribers). This experiment will contain our original science fiction from this year and last, along with short stories from up-and-coming writers and a digital graphic novel based on Isaac Asimov’s acclaimed 1941 story “Nightfall.” In other words, it’ll be awesome.
Please look for it in the iTunes store soon and let us know what you think. Experiments, after all, are only as good the results they provide.
Enjoy the issue.