Why You May See A Giant Red Balloon Above The Trees

If you take a drive through the countryside of Upstate New York, and you’re paying close attention to the skyline, at some point you might notice an unusual sight amid the trees and mountains; a solitary red balloon, bobbing at the top of a mountain or near a quiet country highway. You’re seeing the front lines of a campaign to bridge the technological gap between city and country.


Rural counties, in New York and across the country, have been working to secure better connectivity and other services for decades. At the same time, though, communities have asked that the infrastructure needed to bridge that gap have minimal visual impact. The question is, how do you prove a giant steel tower won’t stick out among the trees?
Thus, some jurisdictions require a “balloon fly.” You inflate a large balloon, three feet in diameter, and reel it up to the full height of the planned structure. This is usually during a weekend in the morning and afternoon, when people are out and about, and the regulations require it be done on a clear day, so the balloon itself can be visible from a distance. During the fly, photos are taken from public places such as government buildings or churches to create example of what the skyline will look like.


It might be surprising that the cutting edge of birthday party technology is still marking out where the backbone of 21st century communications is being placed, but there are a few good reasons for it. The simplicity makes it accessible for everyone, it’s safe, it’s cost-effective, and above all, it communicates the potential impact in an easy-to-grasp way. 

If a giant balloon doesn’t stand out, then a tower designed to fit in with the local environment likely won’t, either. If some of our simulations feel a bit like an unusually tough “find the difference,” that’s the goal. That you get to play with balloons and get paid for it? That’s just a bonus.