In addition to the independent and internal nanocolonies, a third type of nanocolony exists. The ambient nanocolony floats in the air with no fixed location or purpose. Most ambient nanocolonies exist in areas where nanotech has either grown out of control or where civilization has declined, leaving behind only microscopic remnants of its technology. Often referred to as "zombie nanites," these nanocolonies float around aimlessly until some outside stimulus reactivates them. In some cases, ambient nanocolonies even try to continue to fill their intended purpose long after the conditions necessary to do so have passed; ambient utility fog (described below) might continue to try and build roads where no roads have been needed for years, while an inert ambient nanocolony of gray goo (also described below) might suddenly reactivate, essentially becoming a nanite minefield.
Only in rare cases are internal nanocolonies found in ambient situations, usually having been removed from (or drained from the decaying body of) a character or creature that once made use of them.