That's Nathan Siedle, CEO of Sparkfun, handing me the very first ArduPilot Mega board to come off the Sparkfun production line. We were at an Arduino planning meeting in NYC; that's Massimo Banzi of the Arduino project in the back.
Here's a closeup photo of the board. It looks great! The only thing that's not quite right is the GPS connector is supposed to be sideways, so it doesn't rip off in a crash, but we'll fix that in the next batch. It doesn't really matter, because nobody will use that connector; they'll be using the GPS connector on the IMU shield instead.
I don't have an ETA on when they'll go on sale, but it's not long now!
Some planes require more channels. I for one will be building a gimbal camera mount with stabilization. That's two extra channels right there. Also think of the Outback challenge. I think they have to drop a water bottle onto a hiker during a rescue. Another servo channel.
The current Ardupilot was not designed for 2-way comm. it can be done, but it's not easy to support and can't be done when reading the GPS or IMU. There are some workarounds but they require soldering components to the board and we just can't offer that level of custom support. But if you are adventurous, have at it.
The Mega, on the other hand, supports 2way com out of the box because the 1280 chip has multiple hardware uarts. It will be really easy to support this config with a newly design ground station.
number of channels, more memory for future upgrade,faster processor(!?), more I/Os , 2way telemetry, new oil pan with additional sensors etc to start with should make you happy, cheers