Man arrested for flying a kite with an LED

This is an LED kite from Ingenio Electronico. It's not Ernest Sawka Jr's kite. But it sure is cool!

Cinemajay says: "Man arrested for 'disorderly conduct' flying a kite rigged with LEDs after St. Paul, MN residents reported a UFO. After repeated flights an officer told Sawka, 'If I catch you doing this again, I'll come and find you and put you in jail.'"

Sawka said he'd like to fight the citation.

"Hopefully, the judge will say, 'You're here for flying a kite?' and drop the case," he said.

Sawka said in August that he'd been sending lighted kites into the sky around St. Paul for about two years. He would put a "kite up a couple hundred feet and then start tying lights to the string," he said. They're "little LED bullet lights," Sawka said.

You can buy flashing LED kite lights here!

St. Paul / His kite has lights, and he's in trouble again (Submitterated by Cinemajay)



  1. It looks like the real reason the cops have it in for this guy is unrelated to the kite flying:

    On that night, officers saw a warrant had been issued for Sawka’s arrest, unrelated to the kite flying. He had pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor theft and was supposed to turn himself in to serve time at the Ramsey County workhouse but hadn’t.

    1. @Brainspore come on, read a little further into the article before you go smearing the guy. It states clearly that that was resolved and this arrest, which was precisely for flying the kite at night, happened on another occasion. The first thing you quote happened on August 20th, the arrest for the kite flying was Monday, August 23rd.

      1. @vitriolix: Yes, I did read the article and fully understand that he’s currently being harassed for kite-based offenses. What I wrote was “It looks like the real reason the cops have it in for this guy is unrelated to the kite flying.” Sawka clearly gets some amount of enjoyment from riling up the local police and so they are now trying to bust him any way they can.

  2. Whew. For a minute there we almost had LEDs in a kite. Think about it. In. A. Kite.

    There’s no end of trouble from the public and their craziness. Thankfully St. Paul has solved all outstanding crimes that they have enough time to go after this troublemaker.

  3. Why would someone report to the police that they saw a UFO? What do they expect the cops to do about it? Last thing I would want is for there to be a public record of me reporting a UFO sighting.

    1. Why would someone report to the police that they saw a UFO?

      Are you saying that local police aren’t the best way to deal with illegal aliens? The voters of Arizona disagree!

  4. I understand that he had a warrant which is reason enough to arrest him. However, if the guy is flying kite as a hobby and as something he truly enjoys, I see no harm in this. If it keeps him from committing theft, doing drugs etc. then more power to him.

  5. I guess flying an LED illuminated kite at night and getting the local yokels riled up about UFOs is a bad idea when you have outstanding warrants.

  6. To be the Devil’s advocate, would flying an illuminated kite possibly cause problems for other flying manned craft? Such as misidentifying it as an aviation light marker?

    1. And yet, this Bostonian is sad that our local idiotic response to LEDs has infected other parts of the nation.

  7. Honestly, I’d love to see an entire Maker fest at night that’s all about LEDs on kites, bikes, and anything else one can staple to a dowel.

    1. You and I in a little toy shop
      Buy a bag of balloons with the money we’ve got
      Set them free at the break of dawn
      ‘Til one by one they were gone
      Back at base, bugs in the software
      Flash the message, something’s out there
      Floating in the summer sky
      Ninety-nine red balloons go by

  8. Free advice: don’t call them “bullet” LEDs in front of the judge. How about “capsule” or something?

  9. The sad and sorry history of bans on the flying of kites continues, for reasons of religion and safety; the former, infamously, in Afghanistan, the latter in both Pakistan, and in Toronto:–flying-kites-could-result-in-100-fine-after-activity-banned-in-toronto-park

    And this guy was flying his LED kite at night, I’m guessing. That’s kinda strange in itself – Marge Simpson would not approve, IIRC –
    I personally have no problems whatsoever with a little “Night Flight”:

    – strange lights in the sky at night? What’s not to like?
    But I guess some people apparently don’t like it, and do have a problem with it.

  10. Doesn’t he know that flying LED kites is yet another one of those odd, frowned-upon activities that you can really only partake in safely at Burning Man?

  11. Elan Lee stated that he was doing exactly this in Seattle expressly to check out the number of 911 calls the city received each night.

    I’m tempted to try to turn this into a “Seattle vs. St. Paul” thing but it’s probably more accurately a “brilliant creative cool dude vs. guy with outstanding warrants” thing. Unless Elan has outstanding warrants.

  12. In 1943, my father was a private of the German air force. It was WW II and his unit was stationed on the Dutch coast for some weeks. It must have been pretty boring there, so he did what he had always loved to do: He built a kite and had it flying on the beach. After only a short time, the military police showed up and he was arrested. He was charged with treason as they supposed he was using the kite for signaling some information over the Channel to the Brits. It seemed pretty sure that the military tribunal would sentence him to death.

    However, his company commander obviously trusted him, so he went to the tribunal and told them that my father was part of a secret team that was experimenting with some new techniques of weather observation by kites. This statement was complete fiction but my father got out of the military prison the same day and with some more luck, even survived WW II.

    He always continued building and flying all kinds of kites, and I remember quite some nights when I was a kid, when he woke me up some time after midnight, whispering “Hey, come with me, fantastic winds out there!”. And once again we would stand on a hill outside our village in the middle of the night, flying the huge box kite with a paraffin lamp inside. Actually, I didn’t have such a bad childhood.

    1. Wow. Signaling with a kite over 25 miles, at the least? You think these geniuses would be able to see Russia from Palin’s house?

      1. “You think these geniuses would be able to see Russia from Palin’s house?”

        If have seen further it was because I was standing on the shoulders of dinosaurs ;-).

  13. Thanks for the great story. I’m a child of a WW2 vet, too. I think you should write this one up properly and turn it into something. I’d say ‘illustrated kids’ book’, but there is a firing squad involved. Maybe a short graphic novel?

  14. I think this activity – LED kites – would be even cooler if a whole bunch of fliers flew these at at the same time.

    There is something about flying a kite that I find so relaxing.
    And I think that I’m not alone in this.

    Walt Disney knew about kites:

    PS Anon #25: Cool kite story you’ve given us! Thanx!

  15. The real infraction here is doing something unusual. It’s always been an unwritten crime, and if the paranoids in charge have got to write a new law to make it criminal, they will.

    When meteor showers can be seen from within an urban area, I’ll actually feel much safer going outside. Same with self-illuminated flying toys.

  16. IANAL, but here in the UK if you squint a bit you might even say that having a light on a kite at night was a *requirement*.

    It’s certainly true that some buildings above a certain height here are required to have lights on at night – the radio masts at Rugby spring to mind. Not sure of the exact rules.

      1. 30 meters is only in the proximity of airports. The legislation says “A kite shall not be flown at a height of more than 60 metres above ground level”. But at the same time it also regulates what the kite should be equipped with day or night “at a height exceeding 60 metres above the surface”. Unless surface is different from ground level it sounds contradicting.

  17. I’m going to have to call lazy on behalf of the cops. Why don’t they just tell the 911 center to ask people reporting UFOs if they think it looks like a kite with lights on it?

    Seriously, people are reporting UFOs to 911 and a guy flying a kite has to shoulder the blame?

  18. Yep, it was a UFO. After further investigation it was identifed as an RC kite with LED lights. Case solved, no longer a UFO. Glad they cleared that one up and stopped the menace to society that was an obvious threat with his kite. I’ll sleep better at night knowing a kite flyer has been warned. I think I’ll invite over all my church going murderers, rapists and burglars for a BBQ this afternoon to celebrate this victory.

  19. Only in Amerika, If they dont have a law they will make one fit whatever situation. Ive been in situations like this more than once. A cop wants to control you, even though you are doing nothing illegal it has absolutely no bearing on whether or not you will be arrested. In other words, if a cop decides to grab you, assault you, etc. He can and he will. Then while back at the station he, along with a few other officers, or his commanding officer, sit around looking for things to add to the charges. I was assaulted by 2 people and a dog on my property for a SECOND TIME and I ended up with 4 bogus felony charges and $2500 later im again a free man, since all it took was a lie from my attackers to cause me this trouble. Then at the station I personally heard the officers laughing and suggesting additional charges that they did file. Its a combination of stupid laws and police spending too much time and money harassing regular citizens for stupid things like this, that will eventually bring complete distrust for law enforcement. Which the end result will be the inability to perform their duties to a public that hates them, and its already happening now. There was a day when I would have assisted an officer who was being beaten or shot at, I myself being well trained. Now I would grab a camera and give the bad guy pointers. The police are there to protect and serve the citizens, instead they protect their buddies and serve their ego’s and attitudes. Maybe if they hired people smart enough to think for themselves, but then again if they had intelligence they wouldnt enforce all the laws that are ridiculous….

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