Invention Of The Week? Illumiloon Helps Disaster Victims

A team of students at the Yale Center for Engineering Innovation & Design have invented a unique aerostat communication system that will greatly aid first responders to bring quicker aid to disaster victims.

Illumiloon is a calling device that is perfect when communication systems are down following a natural disaster. The device is easy to use: all a victim has to do is inflate Illumiloon and then place LED colored bands on it that identify their needs (emergency medical attention, water, and food).



First responders will be able to identify all the needs from the community and act from there to send in help.

“This system helps responders organize and prioritize,” writes the team on their website, Yale’s Design For America Organization.

Improving Disaster Communication

This project hits close to home for the team of students. They vividly recall Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy and Super-Storm Nemo.

“Electricity outages, limited access to food and water, and property damage posed significant problems to the community,” writes the team. “People often struggled to find help and supplies despite the efforts of local governments and the availability of food and medical donations. Distribution was made difficult without the typical avenues of communication. To improve post-disaster communication, we propose the implementation of Illumiloon.”

The team adds, “We identify communication breakdowns as a common challenge in disaster zones and have developed a low-tech, highly visual, and user-friendly communication system.”

The development of Illumiloon wasn’t done overnight. The team spent months researching communication systems during natural disasters, and they also spent ample time interviewing professionals at the Red Cross, The Yale-New Haven Disaster Response Center, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The team discovered that communication lacked at every level following a natural disaster and then their idea of Illumiloon ballooned out from there.

Illumiloon Brings Light To Disaster Zones

The floating network not only helps first responders identify the needs of victims, but it also allows neighbors to help one another too.

When a natural disaster is on its way, Illumiloon kits are provided to all households in the area.


“After the natural disaster occurs, each household inflates a balloon by pressing a button on a pre-attached gas-release mechanism, filling the balloon with buoyant helium,” explains the team.

“Users then attach one or more colored bands around the balloon, with each color corresponding to a critical need. Using three tethers and stakes, the users secure the Illumiloon to their property. With its LED band, the aerostat is bright and visible at all hours. If a home has not deployed an Illumiloon, it immediately indicates to both community members and first responders that there is a problem.”

So, will Illumiloon be a resourceful tool after natural disasters hit? Of course, the invention is sound and it greatly benefits victims.

Following a natural disaster time is of essence as first responders need to quickly identify the needs of the community and deliver food, water and medical help as fast as possible in order to help save lives.

This invention is currently featured on the James Dyson Awards website as it is an innovative device that will make a world of difference following a hurricane, tornado, powerful rain and wind storms, as well as terrorist attacks.