I have been corresponding with Dr. Masato Katoh of the Forest Measurement & Planning Lab at Shinshu University, Nagano, Japan and thought it would be helpful to put our conversation up on the forums.

Dr. Katoh recently emailed me about the Mikrokopter options available on the Quadrocopter.com website.  His request was a system that is 1) easy to customize, fly and program and 2) enables taking photos over small forest or spot areas.

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Dr. Katoh,  the MK Basicset OktoXL should be very suitable for what you are trying to accomplish.  The Octokopters (8 propellers) are able to lift 1-2kg and with extra batteries are able to achieve flight times of 30 minutes.  One of our lab researchers, Stephen Gienow, put 4 5000 mAh batteries on our Octokopter and flew for 30 minutes.

A Hexakopter (6 propellers) is cheaper and will achieve flight times of about 15 minutes with a single battery, but can only lift about 1kg of payload.  

You will need the DX8 controller, or something similar, for all configurations.

All the Mikrokopters can be programmed to fly waypoint routes using the free Mikrokopter software that can be downloaded from the Mikrokopter wiki.  While this will enable a lot of possible flying options, the Mikrokopters do not allow 100% customization.  By German law, the Mikrokopters are restricted to flying within a 250m radius of the launch location.

For lots of customization, including larger flight distances, check out the Arducopter system: https://code.google.com/p/arducopter/wiki/ArduCopter .

Jonathan

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