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Hexcopter prepares for flight

Parallax, the maker of the hackable Defcon badges, is better known for their Elev-8 do-it-yourself, hackable quadcopter kit. At this year's show, it demoed an upgrade kit that adds two extra rotors to make it a hexcopter. It's expected to be available by the end of August 2012.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
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Two extra rotors, twice the lift

When the Elev-8 has the hexcopter mods installed, it can lift double the payload of the quadcopter -- four pounds instead of two. The change will be enough to carry most cameras, turning your hexcopter into a radio-controlled video drone.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
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Pricey upgrade for the extra lift

The hexcopter kit doesn't come cheaply, though. Parallax sales and tech support manager Jim Carey told CNET that he expects it to come in at "just under $200," but that's not including the extra battery you'll have to buy to power it. With its two batteries, the copter will still only get about 15 to 20 minutes of flight time -- about the same as the quadcopter. Meanwhile, LED lights under the rotor arms make it easier to see in low-light conditions.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
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Nick Ernst, a member of Parallax's technical support team, demonstrates how the Elev-8 hexcopter interacts with a six-band, $450 radio controller. His colleague, Jim Carey, who's not pictured, said that it's more stable with the two extra rotors, so it's easier to fly.

However, controlling the hexcopter requires skill. While the Propeller multicore processor electronically manages stability, you still have to manage four rotors simultaneously, while navigating gusts of wind, tree branches, and other airborne obstacles.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
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