A player-controlled drone is a small automated robotic spacecraft.
Player-controlled drones are designed to operate in conjunction with the modules on a pilot's ship, and replicate many of the same functions. They perform a variety of roles that replicate these modules, although they are controlled differently. There are several kinds of drones, but the most common are Combat Drones, which come in a wide array of types and in several different sizes. Other kinds of drones include Mining Drones, Combat Utility Drones, Electronic Warfare Drones, and Logistic Drones.
Drones are carried in a ship's drone bay. Most ships have some kind of drone bay, ranging from very small bays (5 m3, capable of holding only one light drone) on most frigates to drone bays of over 100 m3 on some battleships.
If a pilot's ship has a drone bay, they are well advised to try to make use of it, as drones represent extra weapons or other modules that have no capacitor, CPU, or powergrid requirements. Next to that, they are very good addition to all cruiser class and beyond weapon arsenal as they are particularly powerful to ward off frigates, which can be an annoyance to hit with all but light weapons.
- When docked, any ship with a drone bay may load any combination of drones up to the maximum volume of the bay, through a process that is much like loading cargo into the cargo hold - right-click on an active ship and choose "Show drone bay" to load drones into the drone bay. Drones may not be launched from the Cargo Bay, and can only be transfered between the two in a Station. Drones come in three sizes: small (5 m3), medium (10 m3) and large (25 m3).
- Drones are 'FOF', so can be useful in PvP against jamming frigates, but are extremely vulnerable to smartbombs as they tend to orbit their targets very closely.
- Every ship with a drone bay has a bandwidth limitation, which is consumed by active drones, and acts, after skills and drone bay, as a tertiary limitation on the number and type of drones active (larger drones require more amounts of bandwidth). Wise pilots will take their ship's bandwidth limitation into account when loading drones, or they may find themselves with drones in their bay that they are unable to launch.
- After undocking, drones are launched via a window in the player's UI (this window is hidden when no drones are loaded in the drone bay), and may be controlled or targetted through this window or a variety of other means including the Overview and right-clicking. (Keys may also be bound to basic drone commands.) Drones move at microwarpdrive-equivalent speeds Drones travel at microwarp speeds (1000+ m/s) to their target, but tend to have very limited optimal ranges. They are also restricted to operation within a maximum range of the player's ship, a base of 20 km, although skills and some drone upgrade modules (Drone Link Augmentor, Omnidirectional Tracking Link), are able to increase the range from the player's ship at which drones are able to operate.
- Drones that are within the control range of their controller will perceive anything that aggresses or has aggressed the controller, from any distance, as a viable target. It will be placed in the 'to do list'. If the drones are in attack mode they will work through this list at random until dead, the list is empty or only holds targets outside drone control range from the controller, or they are put on 'return', 'guard' or 'assist'.
This means that if you ever tell a drone to return and orbit it will not respond to enemy aggression anymore. It also means drones can attack outside your control range and/or lock range if they are already in attack mode, something very useful in missions with those pesky sentry turrets outside of your control and lock range
- Drones will automatically attack if the attacker is in drone control range of the controller. Drones that are returning and orbiting (this is the state they are in after you have recalled them to orbit you, and only after that command) will only automatically attack anything the controller aggresses himself.
- Unlike missiles (because lets face it, drones are a lot like missiles in that they only do one type of damage, take time to reach the enemy before they do that damage, and can be killed before they do damage): different drones have different damage multipliers. Take for instance a EM drone vs a Thermal drone .. The EM drone has higher tracking and higher velocity (very good) but the thermal drone has a higher dmg multiplier (almost 50% higher).
- Drones must be recalled to a ship's drone bay before they exceed warp range. If for any reason a drone controlling ship warps out of an area without recalling the drones to the drone bay, the drones will become inert. Upon return, the pilot will not be able to control them, and must approach them closely, then right-click the drone, or bring up a contextual menu, and select "Scoop drone to drone bay". The drone will then be available for redeployment. This may be done on other players' inert drones, however at best this is considered rude, and at worst outright theft – but in either case, it is reasonably common.
- It is also possible to scoop drones to the cargohold (as you may already have a full drone bay if you've just discovered some inert drones), they will not be available to use, but will have to be manually transferred into the drone bay when next docked. It is a viable tactic (albeit not in the middle of a battle), to scoop and retrieve damaged drones to the cargohold instead of the drone bay thereby maintaining a level of control over the condition of drones available for further encounters.
- Drones are rather vulnerable - even with hp upgrade skills - so you'd like to get aggression on your ship first before releasing your drones, they should be safe then since NPCs generally don't switch targets. It may happen sometimes that you see the shields on one or more of your drones vanish. This means your drones have somehow attracted aggression. This could have happened because they came too close to a different group or a new group may just have spawned. Sometimes it's best to retrieve the drone(s) (return and dock), sometimes it's best to immediately attack the rat that is shooting them.
Drones are very easy to hit while travelling (MWD on drones works the same as on ships, exploding sig radius) so choose carefully. Once they orbit at short range they are hard to hit when attacking, especially with long range weapons.
- Drone control requires skills and practice. A player inexperienced with using drones will benefit from running easier-than-normal missions, attacking easier-then-usual rats, and the like while sorting out their favored way to use drones. For example, one player might prefer to use several light drones, while another might prefer to use fewer heavier drones. In general, however, a player will benefit from fielding as many types of drones as possible even if some are less-powerful, instead of fewer more-powerful drones.
Source(s): Game solutions
Faction Drone ships
Some ships are specialized droneboats, receiving powerful bonuses to drones and having unusually large drone bays for ships of their size. Capital-sized carriers and mothership carriers are specialized droneboats, capable of fielding several frigate-sized drones.
Gallente have the most drone ships, followed by Amarr, then Minmatar and finally Caldari. Basically, if you fly Gallente ships you will want to learn drones up well. Amarr benefit from extra drone skill training if you fly certain ships, Minmatar has a few ships which benefit from extra drone skills and Caldari .. well for Caldari you only need the basics, most extra drone skills will go to waste since you won't be able to (or want to) use those drones anyway (unless you fly capitals). All factions' battlecruisers and battleships have at least space for 5 light drones. Since drones are the best way to deal with frigates it's highly recommended to train t2 light drones if you're going to fly those ships.
The most used Drone ship is the Gallente battleship Dominix. Other battleships with decent drone bays and maximum bandwidth are the Gallente Megathron, the Amarr Armageddon and the Minmatar Typhoon - although they don't receive additional drone bonuses. The Gallente Myrmidon is the drone BC of choice. For cruisers it's a tough choice between the Amarr Arbitrator class and its T2 Recon Ship counterparts and the Gallente Vexor class ships.
Additional skills in the Drones category can help improve drone damage, maximum operating range, shield and armor hitpoints, and so on.
- The Drones (1x) skill is the basic requirement to use drones. A pilot may launch and control one drone for every level of Drones skill. These may of be any size or type, or combination of these, although many drone types require additional skills in order to be fielded. The Drones skill allows for light and medium Tech I drones though.
- Once Drones V has been trained, the Drone Interfacing (5x) skill becomes available. This skill provides a 20% drone damage and mining yield bonus per level, so, with five drones of the same type active, every rank of Drone Interfacing is the equivalent of one additional drone of that type active, making this skill a must for all drone users.
- Scout Drone Operation (1x): you start with 20km control range, 5km for each lvl of this skill is not only useful; the skill at level V is needed to get t2 drones.
- Drone Navigation (1x): sharp double edged skill: makes your drones MWD faster, but it also makes them overshoot more.
- Drone Sharpshooting (1x): improves your drones optimal range, but it can lower your Sentry Drone's dps in certain scenarios.
- Electronic Warfare Drone Interfacing (5x): useful skill, but one drone link module gives 20km, lvl 5 on this skill only gives 15 km extra drone control range. You need level 1 for light ECM drones (Hornet EC-300), which are a really good asset for pvp.
- Amarr Drone Specialization, Caldari Drone Specialization, Gallente Drone Specialization and Minmatar Drone Specialization (5x). Needed for t2 drones.
- Drone skills overview for a description of all skills affecting drone use.
Combat drones are much like missiles – there is a type of drone for each type of damage. However, drones have extremely short ranges and require time to travel to their targets in order to damage them. While engaging their target, they are particularly vulnerable to smartbomb attacks, since all combat drones have an optimal range and activation proximity of 1000 - 1250 m while even Micro Smartbombs have an explosion radius of 2000 m.
Drones are available in three sizes: Light Scout (5 m3), Medium Scout (10 m3) and Heavy (25 m3), and four damage types:
- Electromagnetic (Amarr drones - fast and have decent hitpoints)
- Thermal (Gallente drones - slow but do the best damage)
- Kinetic (Caldari drones - high shield hitpoints)
- Explosive (Minmatar drones - beyond fast and do good damage)
Electromagnetic Thermal Kinetic Explosive Light (5 m3) Acolyte Hobgoblin Hornet Warrior Medium (10 m3) Infiltrator Hammerhead Vespa Valkyrie Heavy (25 m3) Praetor Ogre Wasp Berserker Sentry (25 m3) Curator Garde Warden Bouncer
The size classes are roughly equivalent to the small, medium and large sizes of turrets, and the drones have similar statistics, e.g. tracking speed, damage, agility, etc.
Armor and shield maintenance buddies.
These are quite simple to use; simply have the asteroid targetted, right-click the drone and select "Mine Repeatedly". It will then round-trip with small amounts of ore that it has dug out until your cargo bay is full or the asteroid is gone, and appears to do this even if you untarget the asteroid. Alteratively, the simple 'Mine' comand gets one load extracted and delivered, after which the drones return to an 'Idle' state, orbiting your ship awaiting new orders.
Generally it is not practical to mine solely using drones, but they augment mining lasers quite well. As a rule of thumb, two Basic Mining Drones are about as effective as a single Civilian Mining Laser.
All the above rules about drone bays, bandwith, and the like still apply to these drones as well, just as it does with combat drones.
For all your drones.
- Main article: Rogue drone
The recent discoveries of Deadspace pockets have uncovered a new menace, self-aware hive-minds, made up of individual stray drones, all operating without a controller. These drones are universally hostile, and present new challenges for pilots.
The key feature to be aware of when dealing with these rogue drones is that they are very fast, and very small. This means Large ship weaponry will be almost useless fighting them, and even Medium guns have trouble. To combat this, use smaller guns with a higher tracking speed (Blasters, Autocannons, Pulse Lasers), a Webifying Module to slow them down so that the bigger guns can hit, or launch drones of your own. Smart Bombs are not terribly effective as the rogue drones tend to orbit quite far out.
Also, be aware of numbers; it is very easy to become swamped in Drone Deadspace areas, and despite being 'Drones', some of the more advanced variants can give a Battleship troubles.
(The Rogue Drones are quite fascinating creatures to study; be sure to find time to use the 'Look At' option on them, and their asteroids, as combat and safety allows.)
Recently, rogue drones have been found to link themselves with human individuals in some sort of "symbiotic relationships". These men are often scientists specialized in Artificial intelligence who have approached Rogue Drones colonies and have been accepted as partial or full members, offering their talents to the colony. These individuals are considered as "completely crazy" by the human authorities, and even if they never attacked directly other humans, the threat of a mix of Rogue Drone technology and Human knowledge is taken very seriously by the Empire Authorities.