Sky Lanterns – Oooo Pretty Ball of Fire

I came across this very interesting post from the US about Sky Lanterns
it would seem that the Boy Scout of America have decided to ban these at scouting events.


Sky lanterns: Why they’re on the BSA’s no-fly list

Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane …

It’s a floating ball of fire and fuel that could destroy acres of farmland or forest in a massive wildfire!

It’s a sky lantern — also known as a paper, floating, or Chinese lantern. Consider it a miniature, unmanned hot-air balloon.

Seeing several fill the night sky surely must be something to behold. (I’ve never seen them in person, but I did watch the Disney movie Tangled, so does that count?)

Sky lanterns: Why they’re on the BSA’s no-fly list « Bryan on Scouting.

You need to read the whole article and I would suggest reading the comments to – it ok off you go I will wait.



Ok welcome back, so what do you think is this a knee jerk reaction in an over litigious safety culture or something to be seriously considered.

Here are my Thoughts :

  • The basic physics behind these sky lanterns Hot Air makes them rise, Cold Air makes them fall.
  • You provide a heat source (usually some impregnated fabric) which heats the air inside the sky lantern and up they go.
  • This is very basic and does not account for wind but they will keep going up until there is not enough heat to provide lift and then they will fall back to earth. ie when the flame below the lantern goes out.
  • The instruction on them say launch in an open space away from trees this will be for a reason – I think if a problem was to be cause it would be on the way up not the way down when the flame is in its prime and the lantern gets caught

I am no fool I know that when the flame goes out the paper could still be hot etc. I have set of a couple of these Sky Lanterns and they all seem to have a small fuel source and I would suggest that the high I have seen these things get to and although I have not gone and found the lantern I am guessing it would be pretty cold by the time it go to ground.

However all that said the article above has got me thinking if it is responsible to set a flaming ball of prettiness out without supervision, something to ponder I guess.

This article from 2010 in the Guardian also suggests it might be time to think again about them

One thing I would say about this is if you do plan to set them off make sure you contact local airports, emergency services and the Coast Guard, I have heard of problems when single ones are set off and being mistaken for flares.

So tell me what are your thoughts over reaction or sensible scouting?

1 Comment

  • Hey Hey, I think they look awesome. With the different colours of paper they can make very pretty sky’s at night. Having read the articles my personal concern with them is the environmental impact that when they burn out and land is it not littering? The old saying, “take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints”? I haven’t used them in years and don’t think I would as even the biodegradable ones will take time to “degrade” in which time they could have an impact.