During our first pilot test in 2013, launching dozens of balloons from New Zealand to see if they’d circumnavigate the globe, we knew we had a lot to learn about how to use algorithms to move our balloons up and down and guide their paths through the sky. We thought we’d need a continuous stream of balloons around the world such that, as one balloon drifted away, another would be ready to take its place. We figured our main task would be to manage the balloons’ paths during their round the world journeys just enough to get them to drift over our Internet test locations in roughly equal intervals — so as one balloon moved out of range, another would move into place.

However, the more we flew, the more we realized that our algorithms were able to help the balloons do more than simply fly past our test sites on the ground. Our altitude control system was gradually getting better, so we were able to choose from a greater variety of winds and move ourselves north, south, east, or west. We wondered, what if instead of circling the world, we could ride these winds in small enough loops to cluster balloons over a single area? Forget a ring around the world - just hang out!

In mid 2016, we started sending balloons from our launch site in Puerto Rico to hang out in Peruvian airspace — and they did, some for as long as three months. We kept repeating the experiments and saw the same results: rather than send streams of balloons around the world, we had figured out how to cluster balloons in teams over a particular region.

Now that we can send small teams of balloons directly to areas that need connectivity, and get those balloons to spend more of their time in those areas, we believe we're years closer to our goal of bringing Internet connectivity to unserved areas.
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