Sky lantern

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Ascending Kong Ming Lantern

A sky  lantern ( 天 燈  /  天 灯 , tiāndēng , English Sky-Lantern - "sky lantern"), also Kong Ming lantern or Kongming lantern ( Chinese  孔明燈  /  孔明灯 , Pinyin Kǒngmíngdēng , Jyutping Hung 2 ming 4 dang 1 ) is a lightweight lantern that can soar into the air. The buoyancy is generated by heating the air contained in the balloon body by means of its own fire source. It was developed almost 2000 years ago in China by military leader Kong Ming and used as a means of communication, making it the oldest hot air balloon in the world. Even today they are raised by locals in various Asian countries (especially for the Chinese New Year ), but they are also sold on tourist beaches all year round. Other trade names are lucky lantern , wish lantern , sky candle ( English " Skycandle " ), or from the Thai Khom Loy .

From the beginning of the 2000s, sky lanterns were also known in Europe; After a violent but brief sales success, they were banned in Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein as well as in some areas of Switzerland.

Construction and principle

Tourists raise a sky lantern in Xitang, China
Incendiary device made of cotton fabric soaked in wax, attached with ceramic cord

A paper bag that is open at the bottom is spanned by a round frame made from delicate bamboo chip and 2 wire spokes. The height is about one meter and the diameter 40 to 60 centimeters. A cotton cloth , paper or porous body soaked in a flammable liquid or wax hangs in the opening . The flame illuminates the lantern and creates the lift, which works on the principle of a hot air balloon . The air inside the lantern is heated by the flaming gases, expands and its density drops below that of the outside air. This makes the lantern lighter than its surroundings. This creates a buoyancy that makes the lantern rise. The lantern shines brightly through the thin tissue paper or rice paper and is visible for several kilometers.

Even light wind or air turbulence leads to strong fluctuations in the balloon while it is still in the holding phase and prevents safe take-off. Depending on the size of the balloon and the fuel portion, but also depending on the ambient temperature, the burning phase lasts 5 to 30 minutes, with the flame getting smaller as the burning part gets smaller, in line with the decreasing need for buoyancy. The last copies sold (mid-2009 in Austria) had fire-retardant paper impregnated with salts. With a clear night sky and a little wind, a balloon moved so far away after 20 minutes that it only appeared as a point and as bright as a very bright star in the sky.


Sky lanterns at the Festival of Lights in Maecho (Thailand)

The sky lantern was developed almost 2000 years ago by the Chinese military leader and scholar Zhuge Liang , whose nickname was Kongming (hence Kongming lantern ), and used for communication. According to tradition, he and his army were surrounded by enemies, but they could use the balloons to call for help. Due to the great altitude, the lanterns are visible for many kilometers. Later the lanterns were used on special occasions such as weddings or various celebrations, they were supposed to bring luck and fulfill wishes. One of the most famous festivals at which the lanterns were and are used is the Chinese Lantern Festival , the origins of which date back to the third century.

In 2005, 5,000 sky lanterns were sent into the night sky on the beach in Khao Lak ( Thailand ) in memory of the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake .

In Europe, the lanterns were freely available from 2006, but after several accidents their use is increasingly regulated nationally or completely prohibited.



The lanterns can cover distances of many kilometers, with their flight direction becoming unpredictable due to changing wind directions . Normally the sky lantern only sinks to the ground when the incendiary device has been exhausted.

The lanterns can pose a considerable fire hazard , for example through ignition when starting, which endangers bystanders. If the lantern falls in a regularly burning state due to loss of buoyancy (leaking balloon envelope, downdraft) or catches fire in the air (e.g. due to a gust of wind), it poses a danger to buildings and trees. The lantern can also ignite fires by being driven into obstacles; even the glowing remains after the fuel has been completely burned are still dangerous.

The fire risk is particularly high if the lanterns are used in prolonged dry weather, as there is then an increased risk of forest fires .


In 2009, the sky lanterns of a wedding party in Hesse started a house fire and caused 300,000 euros in damage.

In the same year, a jetty in a marina on the Rhine burned at another wedding celebration due to sky lanterns bought by the bride's mother, which had to be liable for this according to an OLG ruling.

Also in 2009, a ten-year-old died in Siegen from a fire caused by a sky lantern.

On New Year's Eve 2020, the monkey house in Krefeld Zoo was probably set on fire by sky lanterns. 21 monkeys , fruit bats and birds were killed. Three women who had started sky lanterns despite the ban later surrendered to the authorities.

Further dangers

Due to the height of the sky lanterns, an impairment or endangerment of air traffic close to the ground is seen, since they can penetrate into the radar area of ​​the air traffic control and air traffic control .

Another possible negative consequence is the irritation of z. B. Motor vehicle drivers by falling balloons. Occasionally there are false alarms in the fire service and UFO reports.

The wire spokes of the opening ring can cause stomach injuries in grazing cattle and short-circuit power lines. It is therefore better to attach the incendiary device with ceramic cord.

In Italy in 2018 there were reports of tar and plastic particles that came from such lanterns and got into the rumen of grazing cows . Lantern remains in the vegetation are no longer visible and so get into the feed cycle .

Legal position

In many countries there are no legal regulations for sky lanterns.

Against the background of the dangers described and the increased spread of lanterns in Europe, legal restrictions or total bans on their use increased. The regulations and approval procedures to be observed differ in the individual states and countries.

General Risks

After a fire, insurance companies can refuse to settle claims even with approved or permitted lantern flights with reference to the general insurance conditions.

If there is a fire accident, it can be punished as negligent arson .


As early as 1936, after the use of sky lanterns had caused some fires, a police ordinance on paper balloons with fuel propulsion was issued in the German Reich, in which paper balloons with fuel or candles were prohibited.

The use of sky lanterns is generally not allowed in Germany. In Baden-Württemberg , sky lanterns were classified as self-propelled uncontrolled missiles , but this was no longer covered by the wording of the LuftVO in the version of January 18, 2010. That is why the state cabinet explicitly decided on a ban in 2012. The use of sky lanterns is prohibited in Bavaria by Section 18 (5) of the Ordinance on the Prevention of Fires (VVB). According to information from the Ministry of the Interior, special permits are generally not granted. The background is that the free-flying, unmanned hot air balloons are uncontrollable, movable, open fireplaces in the sense of the VVB. In Berlin , a permit is required to raise sky lanterns. However, it is generally not issued there, as there are fears that air traffic will be affected and there is a risk of forest fires. In Saxony-Anhalt the Hazard Defense Ordinance applies to the prevention of fires through the use of balloons. The Thuringian Ministry of the Interior has issued a ban on raising sky lanterns, which has been in force since October 19, 2009. Infringement can result in a fine of up to 5000 euros.

All other federal states also issued bans in 2009 and 2010: in Lower Saxony since May 1, 2009, in North Rhine-Westphalia since July 18, 2009, in Hesse since July 23, 2009, in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania since May 26 , 2009 August 2009, in Schleswig-Holstein since August 28, 2009, in Rhineland-Palatinate since September 1, 2009, in Saxony since September 1, 2009, in Saarland since October 2, 2009, in Bremen since September 14 , 2009 . October 2009, in Hamburg since February 1, 2010 and in Brandenburg since February 4, 2010.

However, such objects can be purchased over the Internet.


In Austria , the placing on the market (that is, "holding for sale, selling, introducing, giving or distributing a product free of charge, as well as using or making available as part of a service") of such lanterns is regulated by the wish- lantern ordinance of the Federal Minister for Labor, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection under the Product Safety Act 2004 generally banned since December 10, 2009.

Already beforehand, it was only allowed to climb at certain points, or in general a permit had to be obtained from Austro Control , the Austrian air traffic control authority, as is the case with any object that reaches heights of more than 400 meters.


In Switzerland there is basically no ban on letting sky lanterns go up. However, it is forbidden within five kilometers of an airport or airfield. In individual cantons or municipalities there are regulations that further restrict or prohibit operations, for example due to environmental protection regulations, advertising regulations or road traffic laws. There is no clear age limit. Due to the necessary precautionary measures, it is often recommended that sky candles only be allowed to rise under adult supervision.

United Kingdom

In the UK there is no nationwide ban on sky lanterns. However, 16 of Wales' 22 counties are banned as of March 2017. The animal welfare organization Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) called for a nationwide ban in 2017 and showed a picture of a dead owl entangled between wire spokes and the hoop of a lantern.


The use of sky lanterns is allowed in the Netherlands if they meet the technical safety requirements. Sky lanterns that do not meet these requirements are not allowed to be sold in the Netherlands.

Web links

Commons : Sky lanterns  - Collection of images, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. TechSpielWelt ( memento of April 26, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Peter Jehle, Liechtenstein, 2012, accessed on April 25, 2014
  2. a b c Federal Office for Civil Aviation FOCA: sky lanterns. Retrieved January 4, 2020 .
  3. Skycandle ( Memento from July 14, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Melchior Limacher, Zurich, 2014, accessed on July 11, 2014
  4. The Fascinating History of the Wish Lantern at (PDF), accessed July 19, 2012
  5. about sky lanterns at ( July 9, 2015 memento in the Internet Archive ), accessed on July 19, 2012
  6. , April 2, 2010 12:17 p.m.
  7. a b c BGBl. II No. 423/2009 : Wish Lantern Ordinance
  8. Sky lanterns in Germany: Are they forbidden and how dangerous are they? In: , January 2, 2020.
  9. Liability for "arsonists flying" even without causality. In: , November 4, 2015.
  10. Sky lanterns crashed , Siegener Zeitung, May 13, 2016
  11. a b Three women are said to have caused a major fire in the monkey house In: Spiegel online , January 2, 2020.
  12. ↑ Burned down monkey house: Forbidden sky lanterns are said to have triggered an inferno in the Krefeld zoo., January 1, 2020, accessed on January 1, 2020 .
  13. a b "Dangers from sky lanterns" (PDF; 68 kB) Press release of the Ministry of the Interior of Baden-Württemberg from August 20, 2008
  14. Article in the Tagesspiegel
  15. Wish lanterns cause confusion in the sky , Kleine Zeitung online , October 7, 2008
  16. Paper lanterns contaminate food In: , January 15, 2018, accessed on January 16, 2018
  17. ^ Collection of adjusted Lower Saxony law, special volume II
  18. Stuttgarter Nachrichten: Authorities farce about sky lanterns , July 30, 2010
  19. Stuttgarter Nachrichten, January 11, 2012
  20. Ordinance on the prevention of fires (Bavaria)
  21. Agata Chroboczek: Unknown flying objects made of rice paper. In: Berliner Zeitung . August 14, 2008, accessed June 22, 2015 . ]
  22. ^ "State Law Saxony-Anhalt - Public Safety and Order" ( Memento from November 23, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 1.3 MB)
  23. ( page no longer available , search in web archives: Thüringer Allgemeine: sky lanterns are prohibited )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  24. Press release from the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , April 30, 2009@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  25. Regulatory authority ordinance for the prevention of dangers from unmanned flying lights (Fluglaternenverordnung) , (PDF; 863 kB) , dated July 13, 2009
  26. Danger prevention ordinance against letting balloon-like flares go up , dated July 16, 2009
  27. Sky lanterns forbidden in future in MV Press release from the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Ministry of the Interior
  28. ^ State law - service portal MV. Accessed January 1, 2020 .
  29. Press release by the Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of the Interior ( memento of August 10, 2009 in the Internet Archive ), August 6, 2009
  30. "Hazard Defense Ordinance - Sky Lanterns in RLP"
  31. Press release from the Sächsische Zeitung referring to an order by the Saxon Ministry of the Interior  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  32. Interior Minister Klaus Meiser signed regulation  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  33. Press office of the Senate: Ban on sky lanterns comes into force , October 14, 2009
  34. Hamburg Interior Authority , January 5, 2010
  35. As of tomorrow, sky lanterns will be banned in Brandenburg ( memento from February 7, 2010 in the Internet Archive ), Märkische Allgemeine online, February 3, 2009
  36. Dealer sells sky lanterns without reference to a ban , Lars Wienand on, January 14, 2020
  37. Application area on
  38. - Notes on sky lanterns ( Memento from July 14, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Melchior Limacher, Zurich, 2014, accessed on July 11, 2014
  39. Safety instructions ( memento of May 26, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) on
  40. RSPCA Cymru closer to 'outright ban' on sky lanterns, March 19, 2017, accessed March 19, 2017
  41. Core team web: NVWA: Nederlandse wensballonnen zijn veilig, maar buitenlandse wensballonnen meestal niet - Nieuwsbericht - NVWA. May 13, 2016, accessed on January 2, 2020 (nl-NL).