Drones Guide, Part III

This is the third part of a four-part guide, derived from a syllabus of a class that I teach at EVE University. I wrote the original version of this syllabus in March 2010, and it has since been improved and updated by my fellow teachers and professors at E-UNI – my sincere thanks to all of them. You can find the beginning of this guide here.

This guide was last updated on December 6, 2014.

How to Use Drones Effectively

This part of the guide will provide some general advice on how to use damage-dealing drones in various combat situations.

More drones will almost always be more effective than fewer drones. If your ship has low bandwidth, try to maximize the number of drones you can launch - this is generally more useful than the size of drones deployed. For example, on a Hurricane battlecruiser, with 30 Mbit/sec bandwidth, launching 5 light drones is generally better than just 3 medium drones - you'll deliver more damage overall. Mixing drone sizes in the same flight can also help - for the Hurricane, for example, you could launch four lights and one medium scout drone, to make full use of all your available bandwidth.

If you know what targets to expect, then you can optimize they type and size of your selected drones. If you are hunting large and slow-moving carriers, for example, then heavy and sentry drones give you the best results (and are coincidentally the most resistant to smartbombs). If you are facing cruisers and battlecruisers, load medium scout drones. If you are out to kill frigates, or you aren't sure what you will be facing and want to be prepared for all eventualities, then light scouts are your best friends.

Using Drones for PvE

Drones are a very effective and flexible option for damage dealing in player-versus-EVE (PvE) activities like missions and ratting. They provide cap-free and ammo-free damage, and can deliver optimum types of damage, as long as you can fit them into your drone bay.

Starting with the Retribution update, non-player character (NPC) enemy ships began attacking drones more aggressively. However, NPCs only target drones by their size category, as follows:

1. Elite frigate and cruiser NPCs will go for small drones and above.
2. Regular frigates and cruiser-sized NPCs will go for medium drones and above.
3. Battleship NPCs will go for large drones.

"Elite" frigates and cruisers include assault frigates, heavy assault cruisers, and special "named" ships found in some missions. Note that "elite" NPC frigates or cruisers are found very rarely in level 1 or 2 missions - they are more frequently seen in level 3 missions and above. To be sure, check EVE-Survival.org to verify the types and sizes of expected NPC targets before you fly a mission.

If your mission includes enemies that warp scramble or disrupt, they should be your initial targets - you want to be able to warp out if incoming damage threatens to overwhelm you. Likewise, any enemies that use energy neutralizers are a primary target, especially if you are fitting an active tank, which is common for missioning ships.

As a general rule for PvE missions, you should use the "passive" and "focus fire" settings, and direct small combat drones to attack elite frigates and cruisers first, being ready to withdraw them back into your drone bay if they begin to take on damage. This will break any target locks on your drones, and you can then relaunch them and re-engage. After dispensing with any "elite" frigates or cruisers, your small drones will then be immune to further damage, and can be used to help take out mid-sized targets like cruisers and battlecruisers - or you can deploy medium combat drones and monitor their damage, just as you did for small combat drones. For larger targets, you can either use medium drones, which will be immune to attack, or heavy combat drones, again monitoring their damage as before.

Be very careful with "Aggressive" drone settings during missions, particularly if you are trying to kill one group of targets at a time. It's possible a drone will attack a separate group of targets simply by being in range of them. Drones also don't know whether or not one particular target is the "trigger" for a subsequent wave of enemies.

Also, in some higher-level missions, simply deploying your drones can cause NPCs to "aggro" - that is, to become aggressive and attack you. If you get overwhelmed in a mission room, recall your drones and warp out.

Faction Considerations

Before entering into missions, gathering intelligence beforehand is important. The ships of different factions that you encounter in missions both deliver and are vulnerable to predictable kinds of damage. See this NPC Damage Types article for a list of common NPC damage types.

Before entering into a mission, check the EVE Survival database to discover the numbers, types and sizes of expected enemies. This will help you to determine the optimum sizes and types of drones to use.

For example, let's say you are assigned the mission called "An Ancient Roster", a level 1 mission.  EVE-Survival says that we can expect to encounter Angel Cartel frigates and destroyers which will deal both explosive and kinetic damage. We also can see that Angel Cartel ships are most vulnerable to explosive and kinetic damage. Therefore, we fit explosive and kinetic damage hardeners to our ship, and we load Caldari Hornet or Minmatar Warrior light scout drones, thereby minimizing our own damage while maximizing damage to our targets.

PvE Drone Combat Strategies

There are several useful ways to deploy drones in PvE scenarios:

Ship Tanking, Directed Drones

When using drones in missions, the usual strategy is to use an active tank, and load combat drones suited for the expected enemy factions and ships in the drone bay. The drone setting is Passive with Focus Fire. The basic idea is for the pilot to gain and hold the aggro (attention) of the NPC targets, then release drones and direct them to attack individual targets at the pilot's discretion, while firing guns or missiles at distance.

For this strategy to work, you must have a strong armor or shield tank.  See these articles for advice on both:

Ship Tanking, Aggressive Drones

This method is often adopted by players who have progressed onto better ships with more slots at their disposal - in other words, they have an unbreakable tank for the level of missions they are running. In this strategy, the pilot sets the drone settings to Aggressive, with no Focus Fire. After entering the mission, the pilot draws aggro with guns or missiles, and then releases drones which fly to multiple targets, without any further direction from the pilot.

This leaves the pilot free to fire on targets of opportunity, and to salvage wrecks, while changing drones if a new wave enters the room (to avoid the drones taking aggro) or if different drone sizes are required to tackle larger or smaller targets.

This strategy, however, is now much more difficult because of the more sophisticated AI used in all missions, which means that NPC enemies will now target your drones more aggressively. Pilots using this strategy should be prepared to lose drones.

The Micro Jump Drive Maneuver

This strategy takes advantage of the Large Micro Jump Drive (LMJD). The LMJD can be fit into battleships - and there is a medium size version for Battlecruisers. For Level 4 mission-runners, they are a boon to completing even the toughest missions.

To use the MJD Maneuver, fit a LMJD into your mission-running battleship. Fit long-range guns and ammo, as well as a sensor booster with a targeting script - you will want to be able to target and fire on enemies from 135 km or more, and longer is better. Load Warden or Bouncer sentry drones and add Drone Link Augmentors and Omnidirectional Tracking Links to give your sentries the maximum range you can achieve. Drone Damage Amplifiers in low slots will also increase damage output. You will not need a robust tank - fitting passive resistance modules should be sufficient.

When you fly into a mission room, turn your ship away from the enemy targets and activate your LMJD. Quickly lock the nearest targets while your LMJD spins up, if you can. Your ship will jump 100km away, giving you distance, and any target locks will remain intact (if you have your sensor booster activated). Then you can snipe at targets to draw aggro - kill frigates first, then cruisers and battlecruisers, then battleships.  Deploy sentry drones to pick off incoming targets as they get into range.

The LMJD can be activated once every three minutes. As targets get close to you, recall your drones, re-activate the LMJD to a new location in the room to give you distance again, and repeat as necessary until the room is cleared. If you have to use an acceleration gate to go to the next room, you can use the LMJD to get within range, but don't forget to wait three minutes to allow your LMJD to reset first.

Fighting Rogues

Rogue drones are generally fast and small. This means that large ship weaponry will be almost useless when fighting them, and even medium guns have trouble. Use smaller guns with a higher tracking speed (Blasters, Autocannons, Pulse Lasers), or a webifying module to slow them down so that bigger guns can hit them, or launch light drones of your own. Smartbombs are not terribly effective as rogue drones tend to orbit further than 5,000 meters from your ship.

Rogue drones also tend to operate in large numbers, making it easy to get swamped if you aggro the entire room. Some of the more advanced variants of rogues can give a Battleship trouble - do not underestimate them!

By the way, if you ever find yourself in a mission room with rogue drones, and they have not yet aggro'ed on you, take a moment to use the "Look At" option on them, if you can. Their behavior is very interesting to observe.  See this video (using an out-of-game browser) for an example.

Drones in Incursions (and Sleepers)

Incursion and wormhole fleets will often specify one damage-dealing ship (usually the one with the highest scan resolution) as a "drone bunny". When this practice is used, everyone launches their drones and sets them to assist the drone bunny. In this way, the fleet can be sure that of all the drones are working at all times, and that their damage-per-second (DPS) is going exactly where it needs to be best applied. If you are controlling your own drones in Incursions, and you have them set to "Aggressive", you can accidentally kill a trigger, causing a new wave to spawn and the fleet to die in a horrible influx of enemy fire - thus earning you the everlasting enmity of your fleetmates.

Being a drone bunny is not as easy as it looks. Any drones that are assisting you will always attack the last target on which you activated an hostile module. If they are merrily killing their way through one target, and you start webbing the next target, the drones will follow your web command and go after that target. Even if you're not in an Incursion, if you are trying to kill one target and you try to ECM or sensor damp something else, assisting drones will follow that last command.

The NPC mobs in Incursions, and in wormhole Sleeper sites, will switch targets regularly and frequently kill small targets like drones. If you wield drones in either situation, keep an eye on the damage taken in the drone control window and be prepared to withdraw them if they start taking fire.

Incursion targets and wormhole Sleepers, by the way, are all omni-tanked, so the type of damage you deal to them does not matter.

Using Drones for PvP

Unlike PvE, in which you generally can know what kind of enemy you will encounter, player-versus-player combat (PvP) is much less predictable.  Therefore, pilots taking drone-capable ships into battle should be prepared for multiple types of threats, and load scout drones for frigates and drone attacks, medium drones for cruisers and battlecruisers, and heavy drones for battleships, if possible.

As for damage type, if you have the drone bay space, carry different faction types of drones, to give you more flexibility. Most people tend to carry Gallente drones for their generally higher DPS, but remember they only deliver thermal damage. Alternatively, you can pack drones that are consistent with your fitted guns or missiles, to maximize DPS delivered of that type.

Even if all you can carry is a single drone, you can still use it for advantage in combat.  A single combat drone can add as much as 20% to your total DPS, if you select the right type. Never forget to deploy your drones!  

Maximize your drone damage potential by fitting one or more Drone Damage Amplifiers. This module improves drone DPS by 16% for the Tech I version, and a whopping 23% for the Tech II version. Don't leave home without it!

Sentry drones operating at a distance can be very effective PvP weapons, especially as a complement in small gangs and fleets. If you are piloting a sentry drone sniping boat, optimize your range with Omnidirectional Tracking Links, and consider enhancing your damage further with a Sentry Damage Augmentor rig. A sensor booster also helps to ensure that you can lock on at range.

If you have the space, and the skills to use them, put a flight of ECM jamming drones in your drone bay. These are helpful for evading a tackler if things start to go wrong, and you need to escape. You'll lose the drones, but that is a small price to pay for surviving to fight another day.

The biggest threat to your scout and heavy combat drones is smartbomb-using battleships.   If you see a ship using smartbombs, withdraw your surviving drones and pick a different target, or warp out. You can usually get a clue about whether a battleship is fitted for smartbombing by using the "Look At" option on your target - if you see that it does not have turrets fitted, they are a potential smartbombing threat.

1-on-1 PvP with Drones

In a 1-on-1 PvP battle, drone users have one major advantage over non-drone users: with multiple drones at your command, your enemy has to decide either to go after your drones, or just ignore the drones and try to kill you. Either option for your opponent is not very good. If he starts killing your drones, he is probably better off, especially if he can kill them quickly. However, it takes time to kill multiple targets - time that you can use to your advantage. You can nos and neut your opponent, maneuver in close, web him, disrupt his tracking, and do whatever you can to make his job harder.

If you see that your opponent is succeeding in killing your drones, call your drones back into your drone bay, briefly. Then launch your drones again. This will annoy and frustrate your opponent, because now he or she must re-target the drones.

If your enemy decides to ignore your drones, and go after you, you must evaluate the health of your tank. If it is holding up, remain in the battle. If not, consider withdrawing. Anything you can do to reduce his tank will help your drones - nosses and neuts, if you can fit them, mix well with drone attacks. Your drones, if going unchallenged, can overwhelm your opponent if your energy weapons are draining him and making shield boosting or armor repairing more difficult.

A warp scrambler on your drone boat is a must for small PvP engagements, unless you are flying with gang members who will be tackling for you. Be sure to clearly coordinate those roles with your fleetmates.

One other tip: organize your different drone types into different folders in your drone bay, so that you can quickly deploy the optimum drone type against your selected target.

Fleet PvP with Drones

Employing drones in fleet engagements can be extremely powerful, if well coordinated. Certainly, you can deploy damage dealing drones to increase fleet firepower, but if your fleet is bristling with high DPS battleships already, consider mixing in other types of drones (e.g., EWAR, webbing) to enhance your fleet's effectiveness.

In fleet engagements, you generally want to set your drones to Aggressive mode. You'll be busy enough with your own ship to worry about directing drones against specific targets.

In general, you can't go wrong with light scout combat drones, as they provide the most flexibility. They engage fast, and can catch almost every type of opposing ship, except for perhaps some super-high-speed interceptors. They are also useful for killing opposing tacklers and enemy drones.

In a fleet, don't deploy your drones until you really need to do so.  If you are in an offensive gate camp, orbiting near the gate, and may need to jump into the next system in a hurry, so you can't wait to retrieve your drones - keep them in your bay. A defensive gate camp, where you are stationed at your optimal distance from the gate, is a different story. If you are waiting for a target to jump into your camp, have your drones deployed, ready to attack. Sentry drones deployed at their optimal range around a gate can be devastating if a war target jumps into your system. If your optimal is far away from the gate, and you want your mobile drones to be deployed closer, don't forget the "assist" command - select a fleetmate that is closer to the gate (ideally, a tackling interceptor) and station your drones around that pilot. When they engage the enemy, so will your drones.

If you are warping in on a target at your optimal range, and that range is 35 kilometers or more, consider fielding sentry drones on your arrival, if you have enough space in your drone bay. They take no time to deploy, and start dealing damage immediately.  Be prepared to abandon them, however, if you have to warp out - since they are immobile, you have to get within 2,500 meters and scoop them into your drone bay.

As mentioned before, smartbombs and drones don't mix.  Steer your drones away from smartbombing targets.  Likewise, if you are flying a battleship, fitting a smartbomb on your own ship can foil your enemy's drones.

The EVE University wiki page on Using Drones contains a lot of useful information and tips on how to deploy drones to their maximum potential. Consult that resource if you want further ideas for using drones effectively.  

This is the end of Part III of this Drones Guide. Part IV will be published Soon.

Fly safe! o7 

Drones Guide, Part II

This is the second part of a four-part guide, derived from a syllabus of a class that I teach at EVE University. I wrote the original version of this syllabus in March 2010, and it has since been improved and updated by my fellow teachers and professors at E-UNI – my heartfelt thanks to all of them. You can find the first part of this guide here.

This guide was last updated on December 6, 2014.

Drone Support Skills

Pilots who intend to specialize in the use of drones will need to train more than a few supporting skills.

  • Drone Interfacing - the best support skill, increases drone damage by 10% per level. Also, it improves mining drones' yield by 10% per level, too!
  • Drone Durability - makes your drones tougher and harder to kill. Useful if you find your drones dying quite a lot, especially in mission-running.
  • Drone Navigation - makes your drones faster when they are using their microwarpdrive.  It doesn't affect non-MWD speed, so it doesn't affect how much damage your drones do. Useful to get your drones to their targets faster, especially the slow-moving heavy attack drones.
  • Drone Sharpshooting - increases the optimal range (by 5% per level) at which your drones can shoot effectively.  Required for effective use of sentry drones, and also useful for helping your drones to get into range faster.
  • Drone Avionics - it unlocks one of the drone support modules (the Drone Link Augmentor), and gives you an extra 5 km of drone control range per level.
  • Advanced Drone Avionics - it unlocks the use of EWAR drones, but more importantly, it also gives you a longer drone control range (+3 km per level) for all drones, not just EWAR drones.
  • <Racial> Drone Specialization - as well as unlocking the relevant Tech II drones, it also increases the damage done by those Tech II drones.

Drone Modules

You can fit certain modules on your ship to help improve drone performance:

  • Drone Damage Amplifier - a low-slot module, it simply increases the damage your drones deal. Fitting more than one will suffer from stacking penalties, just like other low-slot damage modules. Very effective in specialized drone ships.
  • Drone Link Augmentor - a high slot module, increases your drone control range by 20 kilometers per Tech I module (or 24km per Tech II module, or 26km per module if using the Black Eagle faction variant), without stacking. However, the further you send your drones, the longer they will take to get there. Very helpful for sniping with long-range sentry drones.
  • Drone Navigation Computer - a mid-slot module that increases the thrust of your drones' microwarpdrive.  Because it increases thrust instead of directly increasing speed, it is more effective in lighter drones. You will gain a much bigger effect from this module for light scout drones than you will for heavy attack drones.
  • Omnidirectional Tracking Link - a mid-slot module that increases your drones' tracking speed and optimal range. Great for sentry drones, but less used for other drones, although it can still add some damage, especially if you use your drones against smaller ships (e.g. medium scout drones versus frigates). "Omnis" can use loaded scripts to maximize the bonus either for tracking speed or for optimal range, or you can use it unscripted for a moderate bonus to both.
  • Drone Control Unit - a module that can only be fitted to capital ships that gives you the ability to launch one extra drone (more importantly, one extra fighter or fighter-bomber) in space.

There are also eight different drone rigs that can be fitted to your ship for various effects on your drones:

  • Drone Control Range Augmentor - increases a ship's drone control range by 15 km (Tech I version) or 20 km (Tech II version).
  • Drone Durability Enhancer - increases a ship's drone shield, armor and structure hit points.
  • Drone Mining Augmentor - improves mining drones' ore mining yield by 10% (Tech I version) or 15% (Tech II version).
  • Drone Repair Augmentor - improves the repair amounts of shield or armor repair drones by 10% (Tech I version) or 15% (Tech II version).
  • Drone Scope Chip - increases a ship's drone optimal range by 15% (Tech I version) or 20% (Tech II version) - helpful for ships using sniping sentry drones.
  • Drone Speed Augmentor - increases a ship's drone velocity by 10% (Tech I version) or 15% (Tech II version). (Note: if used with other velocity improving modules, the maximum improvement tops out at a 20% speed bonus using this rig.)
  • Sentry Damage Augmentor - another excellent rig for ships specializing in sentry drones - increases sentry drone damage by 10% (Tech I version) or 15% (Tech II version). 
  • Stasis Drone Augmentor -  increases a ship's stasis drones' velocity reduction of targeted ships by an additional 15% (Tech I version) or 20% (Tech II version).

For an example of a ship using drone rigs to enhance sentry drone performance, see this Rattlesnake PvE mission boat.

Drone Control Range

You can only issue engage, mine, guard and assist orders to drones that are within your drone control range, and you can only order them to attack/mine/assist things that are within this range. 

The standard drone control range is 20,000m (20km). The Drone Avionics skill will increase this by 5km per level, and the Advanced Drone Avionics skill will increase it by 3km per level. Training both these skills to V will give you a drone control range of 60km, which can be further enhanced with various modules and rigs.

The formula for determining your drone control range is: 

  • 20km (base drone control range) +
  • 5km per level of Drone Avionics skill +
  • 3km per level of Advanced Drone Avionics skill +
  • 20/24/26km (T1/T2/Faction) per Drone Link Augmentor module +
  • 15/20km (T1/T2) per Drone Control Range Augmentor rig +
  • (5km per level of Heavy Assault Ships skill, if flying an Ishtar) 

 (Thanks to Calgura for this handy formula.)

Your drone control range is always the distance from your ship to your drones (even if you assign your drones to someone else).  If your drones are further away than this, you cannot order them to engage, mine, assist or guard anything, and if the target is further away than this you cannot order your drones to engage, mine, assist or guard that target.

Drone control range is only the range at which you can give orders, but remember that drones can be set to operate semi-autonomously. If for some reason your drones do get further away than your drone control range, they will happily continue doing what they are doing autonomously. For example, if you set your drones to attack a target that subsequently moves away, your drones will continue attacking that target even if it moves out of your drone control range.  You can order drones to return (either to orbit, or to drone bay) so long as they are within 250km of you. Once your drone(s) are further away than this 250km, you can't even do that - and if their target is destroyed or warps off then they will become abandoned, and you will have to go and get them.

Watch out when setting drones to attack fast-moving targets such as interceptors.  They move at extremely high speeds, so your drones will often need to stop shooting and activate their microwarpdrives to catch up with them. However, drones generally do not activate their MWDs when they are outside your drone control range. If their target is too far away, they will instead become Idle and start making their way slowly back to you, without using their microwarpdrives. 

With intensive drone skill training, and by fitting drone modules and rigs, you could theoretically extend your drone control range to over 150km. Pilots using sentry drones as long-range snipers need a large drone control range, because sentries will not fire on anything outside of that range, even if your ship can lock on targets at that distance. Using mobile combat drones as extended-range weapons is not very effective, as it takes a lot of time for even the fastest drones to travel long distances. For example, it would take half a minute for the speediest drones, Tech II Warriors, to reach the target at 150km. Most drone boat pilots try to establish an effective drone control range of about 50-70km. Most drone engagements for pilots with typical drone skill levels occur between 15-30km.

Controlling Drones

Most new players use drones in a rather ham-fisted fashion.  They fly into a mission room, deploy drones, target enemies, order drones to engage, and see what happens.  This can be effective in simpler missions - but can also be a disaster in more complex situations. Understanding how to engage and control your drones effectively will maximize your chances of success - or survival.

Drone Settings

To see your drone control window, you must be undocked in a ship that contains drones.

The Drone Control Window

The Drone Control Window

Your drone control window should be placed on your screen where it is easily accessible, especially if you are a drone boat pilot.  Many pilots put this in the lower right corner, but you can place it anywhere as long as it won't be cluttered behind your overview or other windows.

To launch your drones, right-click on the desired drones within the 'Drones in Bay' section of the drone window, and select 'Launch Drones'. To make launching multiple drones faster, you can add drones to groups (to do this, right-click on a drone in the drone bay and select Move Drones).

Right-clicking in the drone control window

Right-clicking in the drone control window

You can also launch drones by selecting selected lines (including a group) from your Drone Control Window, dragging them to open space on your display, and releasing the mouse button.

Note that you cannot launch more drones than your ship bandwidth allows. To know your ship's bandwidth, right-click on your ship in space, click the "Show Info" option and select the "attributes" tab. If you try to launch more drones than permitted (for example, if you add six drones to a group and then try to launch the group) you will still launch all the drones you can, and then also get an error message saying you can't launch that many in space. Unfortunately, the 'Launch Drones' command cannot be keybound.

In the upper left corner of your drone control window, you will see a square consisting of horizontal parallel lines.  Left-click on this square, and you will see the "Drone Settings" option. You will see options for Passive vs. Aggressive, for Focus Fire, and an option for Fighter Settings: Attack and Follow.  Changing the options in this window will set the default behavior for your drones.

The all-important Drone Settings options

The all-important Drone Settings options

The Passive option will keep your drones under your direct control - with this option selected, your drones won't automatically attack when you are being aggressed by another entity. They will continue to orbit and remain idle until directed otherwise by you.

If you select the Aggressive option, your drones deployed in space will engage targets by themselves if they meet these conditions:

  • The potential target is within your drone control range
  • The potential target is shooting at you or your drones, or applying e-war effects on you

(An interesting note: Drones and "Friend or Foe" missiles use the same aggression pointer. So, whatever target your drones are attacking, either by your direction or by their own aggressive selection, any FoF missiles will go after the same target.)

Even if you have the Aggressive option selected, your drones will not attack if a player or NPC:

  • Target locks your ship
  • Takes anything from your jettisoned storage can ("jetcan")
  • Takes anything from your wreck

Under the recently revised Crimewatch system, any pilot that does the last two actions in high security space gets a SUSPECT flag, and becomes a valid target for anyone.  Be aware that if you then attack them, then you become a valid target for the aggressor, and they can fight back without having to worry about CONCORD (if in high security space).

Having drones launched and set to aggressive is very useful if you are engaging opponents who have jamming (ECM) or sensor dampening capability. You won't be able to direct them between targets if you are jammed or damped out of targeting range, but if you have your drones set to aggressive, they will automatically attack the jamming or damping ship anyway (assuming it is within your drone control range).

The "Focus Fire" option, when selected, will direct your drones to concentrate all their fire on one target until it is destroyed, or until you direct them to engage a different target, instead of spreading their fire on multiple targets. It's usually a good idea to have this selected.

The "Attack and Follow" option pertains only to fighters, launched from carriers. Basically, it means that fighters will pursue a designated target until it is destroyed, even if it warps away. With this option selected, the only ways for a target to evade your fighters are to either destroy the fighters, jump out of system, or dock at a station.

Drone Commands

When you launch your drones, you'll see on your overview that they are now considered 'Drones in Local Space'. If you expand that menu you can monitor your drones' health.  You'll see three bars for each drone for shields, armor and structure - when the structure bar turns all red, your drone is destroyed.  It's a good idea to recall your drones that are in danger of being blown up, especially if they are Tech II drones, which are expensive.

Launched drone status

Launched drone status

To command a drone, select it from the drone window and right-click to open the command menu. If you want to command multiple drones at the same time, right-click the group of drones, or the 'Drones in Local Space' bar to order all drones simultaneously.

Your drone command options include:

  • Attack: This will tell the drone to attack the current selected target until it's destroyed or it warps off. If your drones are set to 'Aggressive', once the target is destroyed or warps off your drones will then pick another valid target (if there is one) and immediately attack that target.  If there is no other valid target, they will return and orbit your ship. If they are outside your drone control range when the target is destroyed or warps off, they will just stop in space.
  • Assist: Your drone will be assigned to one of your fleet members, and then they will engage automatically any object that the fleet member attacks. The fleet member can't control your assigned drones directly - the assigned drones will simply attack the last thing the fleet member activated a hostile module on.  Be aware that if the fleet member to whom you assign your drones commits an aggression in high-security space, triggering CONCORD to intervene, your ship will be targeted and destroyed as well, as the drone owner responsible for their behavior.  The assigned drones are still yours, so they are still affected by your skills and bonuses, and are still constrained by the drone control range between your ship and your assigned drones.
  • Guard: Your drone will protect a target fleet member, thus the drone will automatically retaliate on any threat attacking against that ship. Note that the target fleet member in question has no control over the drone.  Again, the drones are still yours and are affected by your skills and your drone control range. This is similar to the 'Aggressive' setting, except the drones respond to attackers on the guarded ship instead of yours.
  • Mine: Your drones that are capable of mining will mine the target for one cycle then return and orbit your ship.
  • Mine repeatedly: Your drone capable of mining will mine the target over and over until it is depleted.
  • Return to drone bay: Your drones stop what they are doing and travel with maximum speed towards your ship's drone bay and re-dock there.
  • Return and orbit: This command tells your drones to stop doing what they are doing and return to your ship, where they will orbit.
  • The Attack, Return to Drone Bay, and Return and Orbit commands can be key-bound.
  • Abandon: Drones can sometimes become stuck and unable to return to their controller's drone bay. In such cases, abandoning them to be able to launch a new wave could be a wise decision, or so that you can scoop them up later.  This will abandon the drone and it will stop in space and become inert (more on this in a minute).
  • Scoop to Cargo: With this command, you will scoop the drone to your cargo hold, if it is within 2,500 meters of your ship. Be careful, though, as you will not be able to launch the drone from there. Use this if your drone bay is full or if you want to salvage an abandoned drone.
  • Scoop to drone bay: Choose this command when you want any disabled drones to be re-docked in your drone bay so that you can re-launch them. Again, this only works if the drone is within 2,500 meters of your ship.

Note that you may not see all of these options on the menu, depending on the type of drone you've selected and whether you have another object targeted. 

Disconnected Drones

If a drone-controlling ship warps out of an area without retrieving its drones either to its drone bay or cargo hold, the drones left behind will become inert and abandoned.  This also happens if the drones are more than 250km from their owner when their current command comes to an end - they will just stop and become inert. If the owner returns to the same grid (or approaches the out-of-range drones) they can right-click their ship capacitor and select 'Reconnect to Lost Drones' to regain control over them.

Any abandoned drone is free loot to any pilot that cares to collect them.  You will not be combat flagged for taking abandoned drones.

This is the end of Part II of this Drones Guide. Part III can be found here.

Drones Guide, Part I

The following guide is derived from a syllabus of a class that I teach at EVE University. I wrote the original version of this syllabus in March 2010, and it has since been improved and updated by my fellow teachers and professors at E-UNI – my heartfelt thanks to all of them. This is the first section of a four-part guide.

This guide was last updated on December 6, 2014.

There are a myriad of weapon systems available to capsuleers in EVE Online, but the most misunderstood and misused is drones. This guide provides a general introduction to drones, and their effective use.

What are drones?

Drones are robotic vehicles launched from spacecraft, designed to augment the launching ship's capabilities. Drones are stored in and launched from the drone bay of a ship, and require bandwidth from the ship to control. Drones are most often used as damage-dealing combat weapons, but they can also be used for other functions: mining, salvaging, ship repair, and electronic warfare.

Drones can be instructed to commit to specific targets, but they are also able to take action on their own. For example, combat drones that destroy a target ship can be set to move autonomously onto a new target. This provides the pilot with the option to let his or her drones "do their thing" while concentrating on other tasks.  However, drones are not very smart, and if left on their own, they can do some very dumb things.  A good pilot knows when and how to exert control over his or her drones.

The number and types of drones that a pilot can deploy are constrained by several factors:  

  • Skill levels: You can deploy one drone per skill level trained for the Drones skill, up to a maximum of five, and up to the limits of your drone bay capacity and bandwidth of your ship.  Also, different types of drones require additional drone skills - heavy drones require training in Heavy Drone Operation, for example. Getting the Drones skill to V is extremely worthwhile if you are flying ships with a drone bay of at least 25m³ (cubic meters) and bandwidth of 25Mbit/sec (megabits per second) or higher, which is what you need to carry and field five scout combat drones. (Note: it is possible to exceed the five drone limit on certain ships. For example, the limited-issue Guardian-Vexor is a cruiser that can launch up to ten drones. However, for most pilots flying drone-carrying sub-capital ships, five drones is the maximum that can be deployed.)
  • Bandwidth: A ship attribute which affects the number and types of active drones you are capable of launching in space at a given time. Think of bandwidth as radio strength of your ship dedicated to controlling your drones in space.
  • Drone bay size: Another ship attribute that dictates the number of drones you can carry.  Note that drones can not be deployed from the cargo hold, although they can be stored there like any other item. You cannot transfer drones between your cargo bay and drone bay while in space.  If you want to launch drones, you need to put them in the drone bay when docked (or when near to a ship or POS module with fitting services).

Drone Types

Drones are capable of serving many different roles, and they come in a mix of four racial flavors, three sizes and two tech levels - with a couple of hybrid variants.

Combat Drones

By far, combat drones are the most used by pilots. The damage they inflict are determined by their race of origin, their size, and tech level.

Combat drones are available in three sizes:

  • Light Scout (5m³)
  • Medium Scout (10m³)
  • Heavy (25m³) - also, Sentry drones are the same size as Heavy drones (25m³)

The drones for each of the four major factions in EVE deliver one specific kind of damage:

  • Electromagnetic (EM) dealt by Amarr drones
  • Thermal dealt by Gallente drones
  • Kinetic dealt by Caldari drones
  • Explosive dealt by Minmatar drones

The three sizes of combat drones are roughly equivalent to small, medium and large sizes of turrets, with similar statistics for tracking speed and damage.

Tech I combat drones are the most plentiful, cheap and easy-to-use drones in the game. Tech II drones, produced by players through the invention process, are more expensive to manufacture than Tech I drones, and have the highest skill requirements. As a result, Tech II combat drones gain a 20% advantage in hitpoints, speed, tracking and damage compared to the basic Tech I versions. They can also gain an extra 2% damage for each level of their racial Drone Specialization skill that is trained, for a potential of 30% more damage than Tech I drones with maximum skills.

Faction Navy drones are advanced combat drones that are only available from each Empire’s Factional Warfare loyalty point stores. They are notable for their excellent hitpoints and tracking, as well as low skill requirements (same as Tech I drones). Their speed and damage are similar to Tech Two drones, but the Navy Drones do not gain the extra 2% bonus per level from any racial Drone Specialization skills.

“Integrated” and “Augmented” combat drones are both built from components and blueprints looted from the remains of deadly rogue drones in the drone regions of nullsec space. "Integrated" drones have low skill requirements (same as Tech I drones), deliver 15% more damage, and have 10% more hitpoints, tracking and speed than Tech I drones. “Augmented” drones also have similar bonuses to hitpoints, tracking and speed, but also have a damage bonus of 32% above Tech I drones, putting their damage on par with a fully-skilled Tech Two drone. In addition, "Augmented" drones deliver a mix of two damage types, instead of just one.

With the right skills, any pilot can deploy any kind of combat drone, no matter what faction type that they or their ship may be.  And because each race's drones deal out a specific damage type, this gives pilots flexibility in matching the optimum combat drones against the weaknesses of expected targets.

Light Scout Drones

Light scouts are the smallest and fastest combat drones, taking up only 5m³ drone bay space, and requiring 5Mbit/sec bandwidth each. With their high tracking speeds and velocity, they are the drones of choice versus frigates, destroyers and other drones. When they engage with a target, they operate at very close ranges.

Hobgoblin Light Scout Drone

Hobgoblin Light Scout Drone

Tech II light scout drones are about 20% faster and more powerful than Tech I varieties, before any additional skill-related enhancements. Warrior IIs, for example, are fast enough to catch all but the fastest of interceptors. If you are going to be a drone boat pilot, you need to make Tech II drones a priority in your skill development plan. 

Skills required:

  • For Tech I Light Scout drones: Drones I, Light Drone Operation I
  • For Tech II Light Scout drones: Drones V, Light Drone Operation V, at least one of the four Drone Specialization I skills for whichever race's drones you wish to fly - Amarr, Gallente, Caldari, Minmatar

All Light Scout drones have a falloff range of 2 km, and a standard rate of fire of 4 seconds. (In the table below, Dam = Damage Modifier.)

AmarrAcolyte I2400 m 2.49 rad/sec3,850 m/sec20 HP0 HP0 HP0 HP1.4 x
AmarrAcolyte II2400 m 2.988 rad/sec4,620 m/sec20 HP0 HP0 HP0 HP1.68 x
Amarr'Integrated' Acolyte2400 m 2.739 rad/sec4,235 m/sec13 HP0 HP0 HP7 HP1.61 x
AmarrImperial Navy Acolyte2400 m 3.2868 rad/sec4,620 m/sec20 HP0 HP0 HP0 HP1.68 x
Amarr'Augmented' Acolyte2400 m 2.988 rad/sec5,082 m/sec13 HP0 HP0 HP7 HP1.848 x
GallenteHobgoblin I2100 m 1.815 rad/sec2,800 m/sec0 HP0 HP0 HP20 HP1.6 x
GallenteHobgoblin II2100 m 2.178 rad/sec3,360 m/sec0 HP0 HP0 HP20 HP1.92 x
Gallente'Integrated' Hobgoblin2100 m 1.9965 rad/sec3,080 m/sec0 HP0 HP7 HP13 HP1.84 x
GallenteFederation Navy Hobgoblin2100 m 2.3958 rad/sec3,360 m/sec0 HP0 HP0 HP20 HP1.92 x
Gallente'Augmented' Hobgoblin2100 m 2.178 rad/sec3,696 m/sec0 HP0 HP7 HP13 HP2.112 x
CaldariHornet I2400 m 2.04 rad/sec3,150 m/sec0 HP0 HP20 HP0 HP1.5 x
CaldariHornet II2400 m 2.448 rad/sec3,780 m/sec0 HP0 HP20 HP0 HP1.8 x
Caldari'Integrated' Hornet2400 m 2.244 rad/sec3,465 m/sec0 HP0 HP13 HP7 HP1.725 x
CaldariCaldari Navy Hornet2400 m 2.6928 rad/sec3,780 m/sec0 HP0 HP20 HP0 HP1.8 x
Caldari'Augmented' Hornet2400 m 2.448 rad/sec4,158 m/sec0 HP0 HP13 HP7 HP1.98 x
MinmatarWarrior I2100 m 2.7 rad/sec4,200 m/sec0 HP20 HP0 HP0 HP1.3 x
MinmatarWarrior II2100 m 3.24 rad/sec5,040 m/sec0 HP20 HP0 HP0 HP1.56 x
Minmatar'Integrated' Warrior2100 m 2.97 rad/sec4,620 m/sec0 HP13 HP7 HP0 HP1.495 x
MinmatarRepublic Fleet Warrior2100 m 3.564 rad/sec5,040 m/sec0 HP20 HP0 HP0 HP1.56 x
Minmatar'Augmented' Warrior2100 m 3.24 rad/sec5,544 m/sec0 HP13 HP7 HP0 HP1.716 x

Hobgoblins and Warriors are the most commonly seen light scout drones in space - Hobgoblins for doing the most damage, whilst Warriors are the fastest and can keep up with the speediest of targets. However, in some situations, damage type can outweigh other considerations, especially when you know the resistance profile of your targets in advance (e.g., missions).

Medium Scout Drones

Medium scouts are the next step up from light scout drones. They take up 10m³ drone bay space, and require 10Mbit/sec bandwidth each. These do more damage-per-second (DPS), but with slower tracking speeds, making them the best drones to use against mid-sized targets like cruisers and battlecruisers.

Skills required:

  • Tech I medium scout drones: Drones I, Medium Drone Operation I
  • Tech II medium scout drones: Drones V, Medium Drone Operation V, Drone Specialization II (one for each race)

All Medium Scout drones have a falloff range of 3 km, and a standard rate of fire of 4 seconds. (In the table below, Dam = Damage Modifier.)

GallenteHammerhead I4200 m 0.58 rad/sec1,680 m/sec0 HP0 HP0 HP32 HP1.6 x
GallenteHammerhead II4200 m 0.696 rad/sec2,016 m/sec0 HP0 HP0 HP32 HP1.92 x
Gallente'Integrated' Hammerhead4200 m 0.638 rad/sec1,848 m/sec0 HP0 HP13 HP19 HP1.84 x
GallenteFederation Navy Hammerhead4200 m 0.7656 rad/sec2,016 m/sec0 HP0 HP0 HP32 HP1.92 x
Gallente'Augmented' Hammerhead4200 m 0.696 rad/sec2,218 m/sec0 HP0 HP13 HP19 HP2.112 x
AmarrInfiltrator I4800 m 0.8 rad/sec2,300 m/sec32 HP0 HP0 HP0 HP1.4 x
AmarrInfiltrator II4800 m 0.96 rad/sec2,760 m/sec32 HP0 HP0 HP0 HP1.68 x
Amarr'Integrated' Infiltrator4800 m 0.88 rad/sec2,530 m/sec19 HP0 HP0 HP13 HP1.61 x
AmarrImperial Navy Infiltrator4800 m 1.056 rad/sec2,760 m/sec32 HP0 HP0 HP0 HP1.68 x
Amarr'Augmented' Infiltrator4800 m 0.96 rad/sec3,036 m/sec19 HP0 HP0 HP13 HP1.848 x
CaldariVespa I4800 m 0.65 rad/sec1,890 m/sec0 HP0 HP32 HP0 HP1.5 x
CaldariVespa II4800 m 0.78 rad/sec2,268 m/sec0 HP0 HP32 HP0 HP1.8 x
Caldari'Integrated' Vespa4800 m 0.715 rad/sec2,079 m/sec0 HP0 HP19 HP13 HP1.725 x
CaldariCaldari Navy Vespa4800 m 0.858 rad/sec2,268 m/sec0 HP0 HP32 HP0 HP1.8 x
Caldari'Augmented' Vespa4800 m 0.78 rad/sec2,495 m/sec0 HP0 HP19 HP13 HP1.98 x
MinmatarValkyrie I4200 m 0.87 rad/sec2,500 m/sec0 HP32 HP0 HP0 HP1.3 x
MinmatarValkyrie II4200 m 1.044 rad/sec3,000 m/sec0 HP32 HP0 HP0 HP1.56 x
Minmatar'Integrated' Valkyrie4200 m 0.957 rad/sec2,750 m/sec0 HP19 HP13 HP0 HP1.495 x
MinmatarRepublic Fleet Valkyrie4200 m 1.1484 rad/sec3,000 m/sec0 HP32 HP0 HP0 HP1.56 x
Minmatar'Augmented' Valkyrie4200 m 1.044 rad/sec3,300 m/sec0 HP19 HP13 HP0 HP1.716 x

The Gallente medium scout drone - Hammerheads - have again the highest damage output, and the Minmatar verison - the Valkyrie - is again the fastest.  Most people prefer Hammerheads in PvP for their higher DPS.

Heavy Attack Drones

The largest standard combat drones, Heavy Attack drones take up 25m3 drone bay space, and require 25Mbit/sec bandwidth each. Their high DPS but low tracking speeds make them ideal for use against large, slower targets like battleships and stationary targets.

Skills required:

  • Tech I heavy attack drones: Drones V, Heavy Drone Operation I
  • Tech II heavy attack drones: Drones V, Heavy Drone Operation V, Drone Specialization IV (for each race)

All Heavy Attack drones have a falloff range of 5 km, and a standard rate of fire of 4 seconds. (In the table below, Dam = Damage Modifier.)

MinmatarBerserker I4200 m 0.71 rad/sec1,500 m/sec0 HP64 HP0 HP0 HP1.3 x
MinmatarBerserker II4200 m 0.852 rad/sec1,800 m/sec0 HP64 HP0 HP0 HP1.56 x
Minmatar'Integrated' Berserker4200 m 0.781 rad/sec1,650 m/sec0 HP35 HP29 HP0 HP1.495 x
MinmatarRepublic Fleet Berserker4200 m 0.9372 rad/sec1,800 m/sec0 HP64 HP0 HP0 HP1.56 x
Minmatar'Augmented' Berserker4200 m 0.852 rad/sec1,980 m/sec0 HP35 HP29 HP0 HP1.716 x
GallenteOgre I4200 m 0.45 rad/sec1,000 m/sec0 HP0 HP0 HP64 HP1.6 x
GallenteOgre II4200 m 0.54 rad/sec1,200 m/sec0 HP0 HP0 HP64 HP1.92 x
Gallente'Integrated' Ogre4200 m 0.495 rad/sec1,100 m/sec0 HP0 HP29 HP35 HP1.84 x
GallenteFederation Navy Ogre4200 m 0.594 rad/sec1,200 m/sec0 HP0 HP0 HP64 HP1.92 x
Gallente'Augmented' Ogre4200 m 0.54 rad/sec1,320 m/sec0 HP0 HP29 HP35 HP2.112 x
AmarrPraetor I4800 m 0.63 rad/sec1,380 m/sec64 HP0 HP0 HP0 HP1.4 x
AmarrPraetor II4800 m 0.756 rad/sec1,656 m/sec64 HP0 HP0 HP0 HP1.68 x
Amarr'Integrated' Praetor4800 m 0.693 rad/sec1,518 m/sec35 HP0 HP0 HP29 HP1.61 x
AmarrImperial Navy Praetor4800 m 0.8316 rad/sec1,656 m/sec64 HP0 HP0 HP0 HP1.68 x
Amarr'Augmented' Praetor4800 m 0.756 rad/sec1,822 m/sec35 HP0 HP0 HP29 HP1.848 x
CaldariWasp I4800 m 0.535 rad/sec1,125 m/sec0 HP0 HP64 HP0 HP1.5 x
CaldariWasp II4800 m 0.642 rad/sec1,350 m/sec0 HP0 HP64 HP0 HP1.8 x
Caldari'Integrated' Wasp4800 m 0.5885 rad/sec1,238 m/sec29 HP0 HP35 HP0 HP1.725 x
CaldariCaldari Navy Wasp4800 m 0.7062 rad/sec1,350 m/sec0 HP0 HP64 HP0 HP1.8 x
Caldari'Augmented' Wasp4800 m 0.642 rad/sec1,485 m/sec29 HP0 HP35 HP0 HP1.98 x

Because of their slow tracking speeds, heavy drones will do less damage to small fast-moving targets such as frigates. They also take quite a while to reach targets at longer distances. However, against larger, nearer targets, they are superb weapons.

Racial Differences in Combat Drones

Gallente combat drones deal out the highest damage, but have the slowest velocities and tracking speeds.  Minmatar drones have the highest velocities and tracking speeds, but deliver the lowest damage.  Caldari drones do more damage than all the other races except Gallente, but are also slower than all the other races except Gallente. Amarr drones do moderate amounts of damage, but are outmatched in velocity and tracking speed only by the Minmatar.

And, of course, each race's drones specialize in one type of damage.

The key point is to know your potential enemy's weaknesses, and then load the drones that emphasize strengths against those enemy vulnerabilities.  Use EVE-Survial.org before doing a mission, which will tell you what kind of damage to deal out, and thus, what kind of drones are best to bring along.

For many years, Amarr drones had a "bad rep".  This is undeserved - Amarr drones are very helpful against targets that are vulnerable to EM damage, such as Blood Raiders and Sansha Nation. They are also now some of the fastest drones, outmatched in velocity only by the Minmatar.

Many people consider Gallente drones, due to their higher DPS, to be the "general purpose" or "default" drone to use. Certainly, Gallente drones deal out relatively high thermal damage, but remember that they are also the slowest drones. If they can't keep up with fast targets, their value will be reduced. And if a target has high thermal resists, your Gallente drones won't do much damage at all.

In short, don't make broad assumptions about which drone types to use.  Do your homework, and select the best mix for the expected combat situation.

Sentry Drones

These are the same size as heavy drones (25m³), and require the same amount of bandwidth (25Mbit/sec). However, instead of orbiting the target ship, they stay where they have been deployed and fire at their enemies from long range. They are, in effect, robotic snipers. They have varying ranges and falloffs that are much longer than their heavy attack cousins. However, they have low tracking speeds and are immobile once deployed.

Sentry drones also require some more skills than other drones. As a result, most pilots train into sentries last. The required sentry drone skills are:

  • Tech I sentry drones: Drones V, Drone Interfacing IV, Drone Sharpshooting IV, Sentry Drone Interfacing I
  • Tech II sentry drones: Drones V, Drone Interfacing IV, Drone Sharpshooting IV, Sentry Drone Interfacing V

All sentry drones have a velocity of zero (they do not move after deployment), and a standard rate of fire of 4.0 seconds. (In the table below, Dam = Damage Modifier.)

MinmatarBouncer I35.00 km 40.00 km 0.016 rad/sec0 HP64 HP0 HP0 HP1.5 x
MinmatarBouncer II42.00 km 48.00 km 0.0192 rad/sec0 HP64 HP0 HP0 HP1.5 x
MinmatarRepublic Fleet Bouncer42.00 km 48.00 km 0.02016 rad/sec0 HP64 HP0 HP0 HP1.5 x
AmarrCurator I35.00 km 10.00 km 0.023 rad/sec64 HP0 HP0 HP0 HP1.6 x
AmarrCurator II42.00 km 12.00 km 0.0276 rad/sec64 HP0 HP0 HP0 HP1.6 x
AmarrImperial Navy Curator42.00 km 12.00 km 0.02898 rad/sec64 HP0 HP0 HP0 HP1.6 x
GallenteGarde I20.00 km 15.00 km 0.03 rad/sec0 HP0 HP0 HP64 HP1.7 x
GallenteGarde II24.00 km 18.00 km 0.036 rad/sec0 HP0 HP0 HP64 HP1.7 x
GallenteFederation Navy Garde24.00 km 18.00 km 0.0378 rad/sec0 HP0 HP0 HP64 HP1.7 x
CaldariWarden I50.00 km 35.00 km 0.01 rad/sec0 HP0 HP64 HP0 HP1.4 x
CaldariWarden II60.00 km 42.00 km 0.012 rad/sec0 HP0 HP64 HP0 HP1.4 x
CaldariCaldari Navy Warden60.00 km 42.00 km 0.0126 rad/sec0 HP0 HP64 HP0 HP1.4 x

As the table shows, the optimal and falloff ranges of the different racial types of sentry drones vary significantly. The Gallente sentry drone (Garde) does the highest damage and tracking, but has the shortest range. The Caldari sentry drone (Warden) has the longest range but lower damage and tracking.  Amarr (Curator) and Minmatar (Bouncer) sentries operate at moderate range and damage, relatively.

Mining Drones

Aside from combat and support model drones, these drones exist purely to mine ore from asteroids. There are three main mining drone models - actually, there are four if you count the Civilian version that no-one should ever use on purpose (because it is terrible):

Mining DronesSize (m3)BandwidthOre YieldSpeed (m/sec)
Civilian Mining Drone5510300
Mining Drone I5515400
Mining Drone II5525500
Harvester Mining Drone101030250

Harvester mining drones yield an extra five cubic meters per cycle over its Tech II cousin, at the expense of going half as fast. However, they are now very rare, and extremely expensive. The only source that existed for the Harvester drone was from killing NPC convoys in an early release of EVE. One of the random drops from these killed freighters would be these drones. However, CCP stopped Harvester drones from being dropped from NPC convoys. Experienced miners know that Harvester mining drones, while able to mine a slightly larger volume, are not worth their exorbitant cost, since they fly at much slower speeds.  Tech II mining drones are about one-third more productive than the Tech I variety, because they collect more ore per trip (25 m³ instead of 15 m³) and they fly at higher speeds (100 m/sec faster).

Salvage drones

Salvage Drone

Salvage Drone

Starting with the Retribution update, salvage drones became available:

  • Small: 5 m³ in size, 5 MB/second bandwidth use.
  • Speed: 500 m/second - the same as Mining Drone II.
  • Base salvage success chance for salvage drones is 3%. This increases by 2% per level for the Salvage Drone Operation skill, up to a maximum of 13% at Salvage Drone Operation V.
  • Cycle time is 10 seconds; same as for ship-fitted salvaging modules.
  • A salvage drone's base chance for successful salvage does not appear to be affected by ship-mounted rigs or pilot implants.

Required skills to use Salvage Drones:

  • Salvage Drone Operation, which requires:
    • Drones IV - note that this skill determines the number of drones you can deploy, so you'll start with the ability to field four salvage drones once you learn Salvage Drone Operation I.
    • Salvaging II

How to use salvage drones:

  • When you first deploy the drones, they go idle, but you can activate them to start to salvage wrecks automatically. In this automated mode, they will only salvage your own and neutral wrecks -- not wrecks belonging to other characters. You can manually order them to salvage wrecks belonging to other players, though.
  • Salvage drones never loot, they only salvage.
  • Also, there is no difference in the quality of the salvage received. Salvage drones can salvage the same items as the salvage modules, the only difference being that because of lower chance they are much worse at salvaging difficult wrecks (and are incapable of salvaging the most difficult Sleeper wrecks). See this salvage guide for more information on salvaging probabilities.
  • Compared to salvaging with either a Noctis or a destroyer, fitted with Salvage Tackle rigs, salvage drones are inferior performers. However, they provide a lot of convenience for the casual mission-runner, or for cleaning up wrecks after PvP engagements.

Advanced Drones

Advanced drones require higher level skills, and come in several varieties:

  • Electronic Warfare Drones - which provide extended tracking disruption, jamming, sensor dampening and target painting capabilities. ECM drones are by far the most commonly used, and are great in solo or small gang PvP.
  • Combat Utility Drones - which enable pilots to apply energy neutralizing and stasis webifying effects at range.  These are less effective than their ship module versions, but being drones means you can project them at long ranges.
  • Logistics Drones - which provide remote shield and armor repair capabilities to fleetmates. You can't use them to repair your own ship, because you cannot target yourself.
  • Fighters and Fighter Bombers - powerful attack ships launched from carrier and supercarrier capital ships. They have warp drives and can chase people down that warp off. Carriers and Supercarriers can also field a lot more than just five of them. Fighters and fighter-bombers have almost the same size/damage as frigates. Although they operate like drones, fighters and fighter-bombers shouldn't really be called drones, because lore-wise they are piloted by humans. You can see this if you preview these models.

We'll cover these advanced drones in more detail in Part IV of this guide.

Enemy Drones

There are also 'drones' that can be encountered in missions or in wormhole space that will oppose pilots in combat: Rogue Drones and Sleepers.  In this context, these 'drones' don't fall into the drone category on your overview in space, and are only really referred to as 'drones' in an lore or role-playing sense, which is to say that they are AI-controlled.

  • In various missions, you will encounter "rogue drones".  These come from self-aware hive-minds, made up of individual stray drones, all operating without a controller. These drones are always hostile. Practically speaking, pilots should consider rogue drones to be roughly equivalent to fast frigates.
  • Sleeper drones are usually found in wormholes, also known as W-space. The Sleepers were an extinct human race which lived thousands of years before the playable EVE races. They were far more technologically advanced than the current human races, and their drones, which still guard their former bases and systems, can overcome any unprepared explorer easily. Recently, sleepers have begun to appear in known space, also known as k-space, in some combat site anomalies.
A Sleeper drone

A Sleeper drone

This is the end of Part I of this Drones Guide. Part II can be found here.