With the X8, I have the luck that there is an active user group at DIY Drones and e.g. PIDs are already available there. I have been very much thinking of e.g. starting with the HK Global Hawk PNF kit or the HK Reaper, but the X8 does have many advantages, such as lots of space and high payload capability which for me would translate to lots of batts, which would mean lots of airtime. It also gives me reserves to later e.g. put a thermal imager and/or a gimball in.
If it's totally unmanageable, I could drop the full auto T/O and landing or find another solution than the landing gear (e.g. catapult/net). But besides from that, I believe that the X8 is the most economical solution for me, timewise, as well as moneywise.
The thing is that I don't want to start R/C planes (or model planes in general) as a hobby. For me, the autonomy-part is the interesting part and the "model-plane"-part more or less "have to deal with to make the stuff work", if you get what I'm trying to say
. I understand that most users here are experienced R/C hobbyists of which some came through autopilots to the AUAV-topic but their main interest is still the plane/flying-part. I respect that but that is not true for me
I have 2 main targets: 75% get into the (first) A-part of AUAVs - (bigger) part as a hobby, (smaller) part out of professional interest and 25% explore, how small (A)UAVs could be helpful/useable in inland water rescue, which I volunteer in.
About slow and frustrating... I am a quick study and I am able to learn from other people's experiences. You might get an idea of my "learning style" if you recall that I spent the better part of the last 3 days reading each and every post in this thread. Now I have tons of info in my head but I'm still a bit missing the glue to put it together. But that will come.
REALLY slow and frustrating (besides from expensive) for me would be to start with R/C basics and go through different airframes/setups of different levels and sizes to gain experience. When I've learned everything I'd need that way, the X8 would probably be out of production...