Man Gets His Aerial Camera Stuck in the Arms of Lady Justice


If you ever try your hand at shooting photos or videos from the sky using a remote-controlled helicopter, do your best to avoid trees, tall buildings, and… statues. Ohio-based cameraman Terry Cline found out the dangers of statues the hard way this past weekend. While capturing aerial imagery, Cline got his flying camera stuck in the arms of a statue 100 feet above the ground.

Holly Zachariah of The Columbus Dispatch reports that Cline had been capturing promotional imagery of the Marion County Courthouse in Marion, Ohio this past Saturday at around 8pm when a gust of wind blew the aircraft directly into the arms of Lady Justice — the statue located at the very tip of the courthouse’s dome.

Cline was using the $1,500 photo- and video-capable chopper to capture imagery for his company, Challenge Productions.

Columbus Dispatch photographer Jonathan Quilter was sent to the scene, and was able to capture a photo showing Lady Justice clutching the camera rig in her arms (see the photograph here):


Crop of a photograph by Jonathan Quilter of The Columbus Dispatch

As if the embarrassment of losing a camera to an inanimate statue wasn’t enough, a new problem arose: no one had a good idea for how to take the camera back from Lady Justice.

County officials are refusing to pay for a large crane to extract the camera, and they’re unwilling to have someone lowered from a real helicopter (that’s what Cline actually suggested). It would also be very difficult to climb up from below, as the bell tower structure is constructed mainly of wire.

“It looks like we’re gonna leave it up there,” county official Ken Stiverson is quoted as saying.

So for now, visitors to the seat of the county’s government will be greeted by a statue that has a scale in her left hand, a sword in her right hand, and a camera cradled in her arms.

Update on May 5, 2013: The camera has been retrieved from the arms of Lady Justice:

After a week of back-and-forth about who was responsible for retrieving the device, how it could be done and how much it would cost, it took nothing more than a man hanging out of a window with a long pole to fetch the 2-pound, 9-inch device, which is equipped with a camera and cost $1,500.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Josh!

Image credit: Marion County Courthouse by Dakota Kingfisher

  • Brent Busch

    Use a really long stick. ;)

  • Matt

    Justice is no longer blind, but has camera-equiped UAVs. Eerie!

  • halfpress

    I’d be curious to know about the legality of his shooting aerial video in this manner in the first place. Many of us with RC camera rigs are sitting it out now due to the chilling effect of the FAA’s apparent claims that you can’t do work commercially (even promotional stuff) in this manner. A number of companies have already been shut down due to FAA warnings. There is no known way to be licensed, either. One big craptastic mess of vague understandings of what is “legal” and what is not.

  • Alan Goldstein

    Well it seems it is legal to fly if you are just a hobbyist. So it isn’t a safety issue keeping it from commercial use.

    This is a DJI Phantom quadcopter. It is the kind of thing that somebody starting out might buy… thinking it can fly itself. I don’t know how experienced Terry Cline is at flying these but I guess not very. Otherwise he would have known how to handle wind or would have avoided flying in the wind. We’ll probably see a lot more of these kinds of things in the future. DJI is selling a lot of Phantoms to noobs and there will be other brands following.

    A really good pilot could with a larger copter could probably drag a hook from a line and pull the little Phantom out. (He’d need a way to remotely release the line in case it is lodged in too well.)

  • Scott M.

    Clip a caribiner using a long pole that has a string attached to it. Other end of string has large helium balloon. Let balloon go and lift. Pull it all in. Problem solved.

  • Leonardo Abreu


  • halfpress

    It’s definitely legal to fly as a hobbyist (line of site and below, I think, 450 feet or so). All of my aerial video and photography right now is just for personal enjoyment until such time (if ever) that the FAA allows me to sell my work in some manner.

    My question above related to how he was doing this commercially – which the article seemed to suggest:

    “Cline had been capturing promotional imagery of the Marion County Courthouse in Marion, Ohio”


    “Cline was using the $1,500 photo- and video-capable chopper to capture imagery for his company, Challenge Productions.”

    I had a Phantom for a while (it’s a really fun craft and will be all the more popular with DJI’s own impending brushless gimbal release). I’m flying a larger, customer Y6 system now… but, again… all for fun and constantly having to tell clients wanting aerial video that I can’t risk it until the FAA makes some clearer rulings.

  • Lee

    This doesn’t help the cause. I might have an idea to get the copter back. Use the pole from someone’s pole aerial photography (PAP) rig. Use a tall pole.


    Not sure this would work but a donation to the local volunteer fire dept. might bring a ladder truck his way.

  • Jay

    Send AR.Drone to rescue the cam :)

  • Eric Cantrell

    Beg the C-in-C to have this put on the “hit list’…that dude knows drones and their capabilities. Failing that, Seal Team Six might be an option or just a super hot chick working really hard at her job…just make sure any credit is copious and blame non-existent..

  • silentmode

    Somebody call the Russian boys!!!

  • silentmode

    Somebody call the Russian boys!!!

  • Corinne Fudge

    Lets hope that the British Government note that Lady Justice is clearly on the side of photographers!!!!!!!

  • Gord

    He should pray to the wind gods. Or shoot it with a gun.

  • agour

    Give me some duct tape, a bottle of whiskey, and a piece of wire. I’ll get it back for you

  • Henri

    Use another remote controlled helicopter with a hook to bring it down.

  • AtlantaTerry

    What he was doing was illegal. Just wait until the FAA gets wind of this. (sorry ’bout that)

  • PhaetonPhoto

    You’d have to be living under a rock to not know that “Lady Justice” has been trying to get her hands on aerial surveillance for a while now. “gust of wind” yeah, right.

  • Linnar Edesi

    Use kite with hook which is used in Kite Aerial Photography. You can control kite line quite well so move it close to copter, let the line go a bit and and voila. :) I rescued my kite from tree using another kite.

  • Terry Cline

    I have flown there before and this time I took an extra set of eyes to watch for me. When you have no foreground or background information depth perceptions is lost. And, winds are invisible. A shear grabbed it and slammed it against the statue. It was like a magnet sucking it into the statue. Currently there are no FARs regarding this type of craft. This is what the Aviation Safety Inspector told me. Rules and regulations are being formulated.

  • Terry Cline

    You’re on!

  • Terry Cline

    I’ve already met with the FAA’s Aviation Safety Inspector, no big deal and I’m not going to Guantanamo for water boarding!

  • Terry Cline

    The last time I looked this was America, this is America?
    The contractor who worked on the court house some years ago, has volunteered to rescue it. There still are some people who believe in helping others.

  • vr360

    There are 2 things against you to start:
    1. You’re from friggin Ohio (an armpit)
    2. You’re flying a friggin DJI Phantom

  • vr360

    and once again another idiot who will spoil it for all of us who have common sense and know how to be responsible with our rc aircraft. FAA is gonna shut us down and put the rc hobby out of biz.

  • jerry

    another stupid phantom pilot…

  • Larry Gray

    Terry, you may have met with a ‘friendly’ FAA Safety Inspector telling you what you want to hear, but there are multilpe issues here. First, there are FAA rules that prohibit commercial unmanned aircraft use without a license, and they are not issuing licenses to businesses as the rule was written – just government entities, and the operator reequires a full pilots license. That is what has caused the uproar coupled with the FAA requiring businesses to cease offering that product. I know of several business that have been forced to comply. The rule has teeth as penalties include fines $10k-$100k, plus possible 3-6 years in jail. Yes, you got a friendly FAA examiner…who could be overridden. Presidential order and a law passed by Congress after public pressure are forcing the FAA to re-write the rules, government operation first, with public operation by 2015.
    Why should a City pay for crane, or the original contractor ‘volunteer’? Getting it down is your responsibility. That is what business insurance is for. Oh wait…you don’t have business insurance to protect you from the liability of damaging your client’s property. No wonder you can underbid legitimate businesses – skimping on overhead coupled with a proceedure others have to hire a manned aircraft.
    On a broader sense, you have done even more damage! Critics will grab ahold of this and cite during rulemaking hearings. The government portion has already run into a buzzstorm with critics citing invasion of privacy, big brother monitoring with drones. Just wait til they get to the general public section