The shoot took place on May 3 in Folsom, California—see some behind-the-scenes shots from the production here—to dramatically illustrate Time's multi-part report about how pervasive drones have become across various industries. Read Alex Fitzpatrick's cover essay, "Drones Are Here to Stay. Get Used to It," here. And check out a package of stories, including "Drones Are Helping Scientists Protect Endangered Whales" and "Poachers Have a New Enemy: Drones," here. (You'll notice a "Presented by Intel" logo on the package; in addition to collaborating with Time's art team to create its cover, the tech giant also sponsored the publication of the coverage, but it was produced independently by Time's editorial team.)
If you're wondering why, as seen in the brief video above, the virtual cover appears at an angle in the sky, Time Creative Director D.W. Pine, while previewing the cover for Ad Age at the magazine's headquarters in Manhattan on Wednesday, explained that "Because of all the downdraft that's created by the propellers, if the 'cover' was vertical, that downdraft would knock all the drones below down. So you have to angle it so each drone's downdraft misses the other drones." About the closest the drones came to one another was 1.5 meters—which put the overall height of the formation at around 100 meters.
Scroll down below the cover to watch a four-and-a-half-minute behind-the-scenes video.