A two-pound quadrotor drone spent last week stuck in the arms of Lady Justice atop Marion, Ohio's county courthouse before being recovered, while city officials debated how to get it down. The Marion Star reports that local filmmaker Terry Cline was flying the quadrotor, which is equipped with a camera, around the courthouse to gather footage for a tourism video. But a breeze swept it out of control, knocking it down the side of the statue and lodging it above the hilt of its sword. Cline contacted the county commissioners for help getting it down, kicking off a debate over who — if anyone — was responsible for removing the drone, and whether Cline had broken any laws in flying it.
"It may sit up there for a long time because we are not spending county dollars," Commissioner Andy Appelfeller told the Star last week. The city's fire ladder was too short to reach the statue, and the courthouse dome was too unstable for someone to climb. At one point, the city fire chief considered lowering someone from a helicopter to pluck out the drone, but this was deemed both costly and risky.
The fire chief considered and rejected the idea of dangling someone from a helicopter to pick it up
While it's not clear whether Cline either got or needed permission to fly the drone, County Prosecutor Brent Yager said that he didn't believe Cline had broken any county laws. The FAA, meanwhile, allows unmanned aircraft to be flown without a license, as long as they stay below 400 feet, are not used for business, and stay clear of populated areas — Cline's use fits the first two criteria, though the courthouse and surrounding areas probably count as "populated."
The agency has been asked to develop a fuller framework for commercial and other drones in the coming years, but Cline's biggest problem turned out to be finding a way to actually retrieve his tiny quadrotor. Though it took a full week to do so, the solution proved relatively simple: the Columbus Dispatch reports that on Saturday morning, a man was able to recover it by hanging out a nearby window with a long pole. It is unknown whether the $1,500 device has been returned to Cline or remains in working condition.