I want to assemble a fixed wing system for aerial photography, but am wondering what would be a stable platform that could carry a digital camera and all the associated electronics. It would be great if I could find an airframe that could handle landing on less than ideal runway surfaces, too.
Actually this is kind of a two part question, because I am also wondering what camera orientation (side facing, front facing) would be best for snapping photos while the plane is under control of the autopilot? Would straight passes with a forward-facing camera give predictable trajectories(?) for images? Or would parallel passes with a side-facing camera be better? I will be using a wireless downlink so I can see "through" the camera lens as it flies, and I plan on at least having tilt control as this would minimize any issues with framing the shot with each pass.
Thoughts so far...
A high-wing trainer would be a stable and roomy platform, but how could I mount a forward-facing camera that wouldn't catch the prop in every shot? Wing-mounted motors or some type of pusher would alleviate that issue, but is there such a monster? I suppose it wouldn't be hard to build. And if I mount the camera on the nose, is it going to be impossible to rebalance the aircraft?
A powered glider with a pusher would seem like a good option, but how do those airframes perform under autopilot control? I've never been near one, and based on pictures it doesn't seem like there's much room inside the fuselage for any peripheral stuff.
I admit, a mikrokopter would solve my runway, stability, and camera mounting issues. But I'm in it to get some experience with autopilots!