The latest issue of TIME magazine features a special report on the rapid uptake of unmanned aerial vehicles (or drones) in our culture. For the cover photo, TIME broke tradition to recreate its iconic logo and red border using 958 illuminated Intel Shooting Star drones hovering in the sky above California. It’s the first time in the magazine’s 95-year history that a cover has been created in the air.

TIME Magazine cover (June 11, 2018 issue)

Time Magazine cover (June 11, 2018 issue)

TIME partnered with Intel’s Drone Light Show team to program the Shooting Stars, which are commonly used for light shows. The drones were calibrated to emit red and white LED lights to match the TIME‘s specific colour, and then arranged in a vertical formation that replicated the magazine’s border and logo.

To achieve the best effect, and adding to the challenge, the drones were required to fly closer to each other than the three-metre radius usually prescribed in drone light shows – a measure to prevent in-air collisions. According to TIME, it was one of the largest drone light shows to take place in the United States, at around 100 metres tall. Though the actual number of drones used was slightly lower than the amount used in the Olympic opening ceremony earlier this year, the display was no less impressive.

The intended formation of the drones for the cover

The intended formation of the drones for the cover

Another drone – a heavier Astraeus system mounted with a camera – then filmed the formation from a precise angle, with the backdrop of a sunset appearing behind the machines. A still was taken from the clip to be used as the cover for the magazine to be released on June 11.

“I’ve always been amazed at how different an image looks when you put it inside the red border of TIME,” said TIME creative director D.W. Pine in a statement. “What’s interesting about this is that the image is actually the border of TIME. I’ve looked at that border and logo every single day on a flatscreen monitor, and to see it up in the sky, at 400 feet in the air, it was very moving for me.”

Check out the videos below to see how it all came together.

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