The aerial cover is a first in the publication's 95-year-old history. It was created using 958 of technology brand Intel's Shooting Star – a range of drones and software commonly purposed for light shows.
The vehicles were programmed to arrange in a vertical formation that mimicked Time's iconic border and logo. Another drone then photographed the display from a precise angle.
Shot in Folsom, California, on 3 May 2018, the cover is one of the largest drone light shows to ever take place in the United States, according to Time.
The largest recorded indoor drone show was also performed using Intel's Shooting Stars, which took place earlier this year at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
"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."
The 958 drones were programmed to emit red and white LED lights in shades that match Time's specific colour. The photograph was taken at sunset so that a blue gradient appears behind the machines.
To create the image, 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.
This was a challenge given the timing of the photoshoot, as winds tend to be stronger in the evenings at the location.
Thirteen seconds of footage was filmed by a heavier Astraeus drone, which was mounted with a camera. A still was then taken from the clip and used as the cover for The Drone Age – A Special Report, to be released 11 June 2018.
Drones are increasingly changing the way we interact with the world. Last month, Dezeen premiered a short documentary about how drones can revolutionise the way people travel, transform how buildings are built, and alter the form cities take.
Drone light shows have also taken place during last year's Art Basel Miami Beach event, when Studio Drift programmed them to flock like birds over the sand, and during the beginning of Lady Gaga's performance at the Super Bowl in 2017.