Three years ago, Swiss sensor manufacturer senseFly released its Swinglet CAM unmanned aerial vehicle. Priced around US$10,600, the little aircraft can follow a pre-programmed flight path or be piloted by remote control, and uses its built-in 12-megapixel camera to create aerial maps, or keep tabs on things like wildlife, crops and traffic. Now, based on its experiences with the Swinglet CAM, senseFly is about to release a new UAV known as the eBee.

Thanks to its detachable wings, the foam-bodied eBee and all its associated gear fits in a sturdy case that meets International Air Transport Association guidelines as carry-on luggage.

Once on site it can be launched by hand, after which it will autonomously follow a flight path mapped out in advance by the user, via the included eMotion 2 software. Users are also able to take control of the UAV at any point, and remotely pilot it in real time. Upon completion of its flight, it can land itself without any human intervention – thanks partially to an integrated ground sensor and the ability to run its motor in reverse.

Some of the eBee’s other features include a 16-megapixel camera, onboard data logging, and the capacity to create 3D maps using that data after the flight. It has a 3-kilometer (1.9-mile) radio range, a maximum cruising speed of 57 km/h (35 mph), can hold its course against winds of up to 45 km/h (28 mph), and manages about 45 minutes of flight time on one charge of its lithium-polymer battery.

It has a wingspan of 96 centimeters (37.8 inches) and weighs in at 630 grams (22 oz), making it slightly larger and heavier than the Swinglet CAM – on the plus side, however, its camera, radio range, top speed, and flight time are better than those of the Swinglet.

Although there are any number of uses that the eBee could likely be put to, senseFly is aiming it at industries such as surveying and mining. While hobbyists might like to fly it around their neighborhood just for fun, at a planned price of around $12,000 (according to a report in IEEE Spectrum), they might want to find something else ... such as a $300 AR Drone, which is made by senseFLY’s new parent company, Parrot.

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