Drones

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In EVE, Drones are semi-autonomous vehicles launched from larger spacecraft, designed to augment the launching ship's capabilities. All four races use drones, so every combat pilot is likely to use them sooner or later. This article explains how to load, deploy and control drones, and discusses the different types of drone available. See Using Drones for a detailed discussion of drone control and drone tactics for PvE and PvP.

Contents

Drone Basics

The Dronebay

A ship must have a dronebay to use drones. You can find out if your ship has a dronebay, and how big it is, by looking at the Attributes tab in its Show Info window -- if it has a dronebay, it will tell you the dronebay's capacity in cubic meters (m3).

To open the dronebay, either right-click on your ship in your hangar and select 'open dronebay' or click on the dronebay button at the bottom left of the fitting screen (near the cargo hold button). You can load drones into your dronebay by dragging and dropping them into the dronebay window. Nothing else can be loaded into the dronebay. You can carry drones in your cargo hold, but you cannot use drones while they are in your cargohold, and you cannot transfer drones from your hold to your dronebay while you are in space.

Drones in Space

If you undock with drones in your dronebay, you will see a new window for controlling drones appear on your screen. You can launch them by right-clicking on them in this window and selecting the launch option, by selecting them in this window and then clicking the launch button in the selected item window, left clicking and hold - making the radial menu appear which gives the option for launch, or the fastest method - click, hold and simply drag the drone/s into empty space. (Especially effective when you group drones, you can drag the group entry into space and launch all drones in the group.)

You may only have a maximum of five drones in space at once -- one for every level you have trained in the Drones skill -- even if you can carry more in your dronebay. (The three exceptions to this limit are carriers, supercarriers and the rare Guardian-Vexor)

Bandwidth

The other constraint on the drones you can launch is your ship's bandwidth -- again, you can find this on your ship's Attributes tab. Bandwidth represents your ship's ability to coordinate your drones, and bigger and more powerful drones always require more bandwidth (with the exception of fighters and fighter bombers, a drone's bandwidth requirements in Mbit/sec is always the same number as its size in m3). It is possible to have more drones in your dronebay than your ship can control, of course, you just can't have more in space at once than your bandwidth limit. Dedicated drone ships will often have larger drone bays than they have bandwidth; this allows you to selectively deploy different types of drones to best match your enemies, or to replace drones which are killed in combat.

Control and Behaviour

Right-clicking in the drone control window on the drones you have in space lets you order them to attack your selected target, or to return and orbit you, or to return and dock with you and return to the dronebay. There is usually a short lag period before they actually perform your orders.

By default, your drones are set to behave aggressively, which means they will attack anything hostile to you within their range. In the drone settings window, which you can access from the white triangle at the top left of the drone control window, you can set them to behave passively instead, which will make them simply orbit you until you order them to attack something.

There's much more to be said about the use of drones, some of which is covered below, but if you've read the above you should know the basics required to load and deploy drones in Eve.

Drones Orbiting Targets

Drones have 2 hidden attributes which help determine the range and speed they will attempt to orbit a target. EntityFlyRange and Orbit Velocity are the 2 attributes.

All drones, from logistics and EWar through the fastest 'Augmented' types, will try and orbit at the EntityFlyRange.

Type
Try and Orbit Range/m
Light Drones
500
Medium Drones
900
Heavy Drones
1000

The Orbit Velocity is the non-MWD (MicroWarp Drve) Speed a drone travels at. When in close proximity to a target, it will attempt to use this speed for following and orbiting.

Note that there is a more common value used for ships, max velocity, but this is not the case with Drones. A Drone's max velocity is based upon an installed MWD (MicroWarp Drive) which is integral to the drone but is a module installed on a ship. As such, this is a major difference when determining such things with drones versus ships.

This ventures into EVE physics and goes beyond the scope of this document but, suffice it to say that a drone will attempt to orbit at the EntityFlyRange and not its optimal range.

An example of this, from testing: A Hobgoblin I (Gallente T1 drone) vs a Hobgoblin II Both have an Entity Fly range of 500. T1 has an Orbit Velocity of 550 m/s T2 has an orbit Velocity of 660 m/s

The T1 orbits at 705 meters The T2 orbits at 724 meters

Whereas a Hammerhead II (Gallente T2 medium drone) with an Orbit Velocity of 480 m/s; ends up at 1096 meters vs the 900 meter attempt. And a Ogre II (Gallente T2 heavy drone) with an Orbit Velocity of 300 m/s ended up at 1196 meters vs the 1000 meter attempt.

Neither of these 2 attributes (EntityFlyRange nor Orbit Velocity) can be adjusted by player skills nor modules. Only the MicroWarp Drive Max Velocity stat can be adjusted by modules and skills.

Drone Types

Drones are capable of serving many different roles and exist in many different sizes. The most popular use of drones, however, is in combat.

Combat Drones

These drones are easily the most common. They fall into three main groups: standard combat drones of different sizes; stationary sentry drones; and fighters and fighter-bombers, which are only used by capital ships.

The types of damage they do are determined by their race of origin:

Race Primary Damage Fighter Damage*
Amarr EM Thermal
Caldari Kinetic Thermal
Gallente Thermal Kinetic
Minmatar Explosive Kinetic
*This is an additional damage type that the fighter sized drones do as secondary damage.

Standard Combat Drones

These all work in a fairly simple way. They have short ranges, and when told to attack they fly close to their target and shoot it. Light and medium drones have a slightly different skill tree to heavy drones.

Light scout drones:

  • use 5m3 space and 5Mbit/sec bandwidth
  • move and track targets very fast
  • are the best drones to use against frigates and destroyers

Medium scout drones:

  • use 10m3 space and 10Mbit/sec bandwidth
  • move and track moderately fast
  • are the best drones to use against cruisers, and are also good against battlecruisers

Heavy attack drones:

  • use 25m3 space and 25Mbit/sec bandwidth
  • move and track slowly, but do lots of damage
  • are good against battleships, and can handle battlecruisers

Sentry Drones

The section on Sentry drones is outdated and in need of Updating

These are the same size and require the same amount of bandwidth as heavy drones. However, instead of orbiting the target ship they instead sit where they have been deployed and fire at their targets from long range. They have varying ranges and falloffs, all much longer than heavy attack drones, but they have very low tracking speeds. A target still needs to be within your drone control range before you can order sentries to fire on it.

You can think of sentries as something like battleship-sized turrets in drone form. They can hit quite small fast targets if their targets have low angular velocity, but most of the time their ideal targets are battlecruisers and battleships. The Sentry Damage Augmentor rig grants a damage bonus to sentry drones only.

Sentry drones' damage ratios over distance

Sentry drones are unique in that their range and falloff vary by race, unlike the other combat drones. The graph to the right illustrates the different damages the drones Garde(Gallente), Curator(Amarr), Warden(Caldari) and Bouncer(Minmatar) do over distance[1]. This can be summarised by the following table:


Best Worst
Damage Modifier: Garde Bouncer Curator Warden
Optimal/Falloff: Warden Bouncer Curator Garde
Tracking: Garde Curator Bouncer Warden

Fighters and Fighter-Bombers

Fighters are frigate-sized drones that do cruiser-sized damage and can only be fielded by carriers and supercarriers. They are capable of warping, and will pursue a target into warp -- the only escape from fighters is to jump system or to dock[2].

The following table displays the differences between the four fighter drones[3]:

Drone Name Race Base Damage

(T2/T1)

Range Falloff Tracking Speed

(rad/sec)

Templar Amarr 200/100 4500 2500 0.075
Dragonfly Caldari 213/106 5000 3500 0.0625
Firbolg Gallente 175/88 1500 3500 0.1
Einherji Minmatar 125/63 1000 5000 0.125

It must be noted that fighters not only deal their respective race's damage type but also deal an additional damage type as outlined in the table at the start of this section.

Fighter-bombers are a special anti-capital-ship design of fighter, which can only be used by supercarriers. They launch torpedoes which will do tremendous DPS to very large targets, and can be very dangerous to slow battleships. They are not as dangerous to smaller ships, however, because their torpedoes have very slow explosion velocities and very large explosion radii.

At the time of writing a single fighter-bomber costs more than a first-tier battlecruiser hull.

Electronic Warfare Drones

Unlike combat drones, EW drones do not do damage but instead apply a type of electronic warfare, decided by the racial origin of the drone, to their target. There are three EW drones per race, in the same light, medium and heavy sizes as combat drones. The type of EW is indicated by a two-letter abbreviation in the drone's name, while the size is indicated by the numbers 300 (small), 600 (medium) and 900 (large), so for example a medium-sized tracking disruption drone is called a Valkyrie TD-600 in-game.

Note that neither hull bonuses and skill bonuses to drone damage nor electronic warfare support skills such as Turret Destabilization can enhance the effect of ewar drones.

Tracking Disruption (TD)

These Amarr EW drones reduce the optimal, falloff and tracking speed of their target's turrets. Tracking disruption does not affect missile launchers. TD drones' effects are stacking-penalized with other TD drones and with normal TD modules.

ECM (EC)

These Caldari drones have the ability to jam their target's sensors. This not only breaks any current locks that the target may have but also makes them unable to lock again for a short time. Note that -- like module-based ECM, but unlike the other ewar drones -- ECM drones have a chance to jam, not a certainty. EC drones are not subject to stacking penalties with each other or with normal ECM modules.

Sensor Dampening (SD)

These Gallente drones specialise in reducing the range and increasing the locking speed of enemy targeting systems, meaning the target has to come closer to lock and/or will take longer to achieve that lock in the first place. SD drones' effects are stacking-penalized with other SD drones and with normal SD modules.

Target Painting (TP)

These Minmatar drones increase the target's signature radius, essentially making it "bigger" in combat terms. This means ships are able to lock on to the target faster, hit better with turrets and deal more damage with missiles. TP drones' effects are stacking-penalized with other TP drones and with normal TP modules.

Combat Utility Drones

Similar to EW drones, these perform auxiliary tasks in battle. Again, hull or skill bonuses to drone damage do not make these drones more effective.

Energy Neutralisation (EV)

These drones drain the capacitor of the target vessel (working in a similar manner to energy neutralizers) and come in three sizes (300, 600 and 900) based on Amarr combat drone designs. See the Capacitor Warfare Guide for details.

Stasis Webification (SW)

This drone slows the sub-light speed of the target, making them easier to hit and damage. With the Inferno expansion small and medium sizes were introduced in addition to the heavy-drone-sized Berserker SW-900. The web effects will be stacking-penalized with other SW drones or with normal web modules.

Logistics Drones

These drones work to repair their targets. Unfortunately, a pilot is not able to target him/herself, therefore making it impossible for a pilot to use their own logistics drones in order to repair themselves. Hull or skill bonuses to drone damage do not make these drones more effective.

For once, these drones are explicitly named for their size ('Light Armor Maintenance Bot', 'Heavy Shield Maintenance Bot', etc).

Shield Repair

These drones work to repair the shield of the target and use the designs of the small, medium and heavy Caldari drones.

Armor Repair

These drones work to repair the armour of the target and use the designs of the small, medium and heavy Gallente drones.

Salvage Drones

The Salvage Drone I was added in December 2012 with the Retribution expansion. It has a very low (3%) base access difficulty bonus and is affected by the new (actually very old, but re-implemented) Salvage Drone Operation skill. This change coincided with the addition of a small drone bay to the Noctis.

Mining Drones

Aside from combat and support model drones, these drones exist purely to mine ore from asteroids. There are four mining drone models:

Drone Name Size m3 Bandwidth Ore Yield Speed

(m/sec)

Civilian Mining Drone 5 5 10 300
Mining Drone I 5 5 15 400
Mining Drone II 5 5 25 500
Harvester Mining Drone 10 10 30 250

Mining drones add to your mining rate but do use up dronebay space which could instead be used to defend yourself against rats with combat drones. Remember that mining drones' speed dramatically affects their real yield rate, as they have to repeatedly travel between you and your target asteroid.

Drone Names

The following table lays out the names of each different kind of drone.

Drone Type Amarr Caldari Gallente Minmatar
Light Scout Acolyte Hornet Hobgoblin Warrior
Medium Scout Infiltrator Vespa Hammerhead Valkyrie
Heavy Attack Praetor Wasp Ogre Berserker
Sentry Curator Warden Garde Bouncer
Fighter Templar Dragonfly Firbolg Einherji
Fighter Bomber Malleus Mantis Cyclops Tyrfing

Faction, Augmented and Integrated Drones

this section is outdated and requires updating

These are all unusual versions of combat drones. To cut a long story short, none of them offer significant benefits, and they are usually unjustifiably expensive.

The faction drones are produced by the militaries of the four factions (so they're called 'Federation Navy Hobgoblin', 'Republic Fleet Warrior', and so on). Their performance is on a par or slightly better than their T2 equivalents.

'Integrated' drones and 'Augmented' drones represent drones which have been souped-up with rogue drone parts. In practice, the 'Integrated' drones are worse than T2 drones and the 'Augmented' drones are about on a par with T2 drones.

Skills

As there are many varied drones in existence, so too are there a myriad of drone skills available, to the extent that drones get a section of their own. You can find a full list of drone skills here. Some key ones are discussed below.

Basic
Training this to V is mandatory for nearly everyone. Each drone you add increases your damage output. 2 drones = 100% damage increase over 1 drone. 3 drones = 50% over 2. 4 drones = 33% over 3. 5 drones = 25% increase over 4. Having less than 5 drones costs you DPS. Drones V is also a prerequisite for several other drone skills, including Drone Interfacing.
Adds 5km to max drone range per level.
+5% Damage per level for light drones. Needed at level V to unlock T2 Light Drones. A good candidate to train to at least IV, for obvious reasons.
+5% Damage per level for medium drones. Needed at level V to unlock T2 Medium Drones. A good candidate to train to at least IV, for obvious reasons.
+10% Damage/Mining Yield per level. This is the second biggest boost skill to the damage your drones can do, directly behind Drones. Most combat pilots will want to train this to IV; drone specialists will probably be able to stomach the training time necessary to get it to V.
Advanced
Allows for the use of heavy attack drones and adds +5% damage per level. Level V opens up T2 heavy drones. If you never fly ships with a 125m<sup>3</sup> or bigger dronebay, you may never want to use heavy drones. But pilots considering the Armageddon, Typhoon and Megathron should seriously consider heavies, and drone specialists moving into the Dominix or Rattlesnake should certainly train them.
Allows for the use of sentry drones and adds +5% damage per level. T2 sentries can be a viable alternative to T2 heavies: they remove the problem of travel time, although they require the pilot to be close to them in order to recover them (whereas heavies can fly back to the pilot).
3,000m more drone control range per level for all drones. Required to unlock EW drones. EW drones are sometimes useful, but the extra drone control range is a good reason to put at least a few levels in this, and more than a few if you're planning on sentry sniping.
Support
Increases drones' MWD speed by 5% but can cause your drones to overshoot. This cuts down travel time delays, and may help your light drones to catch up with fast targets in PvP.
+5% to drone shield, armour and hull hit points. Not the most useful drone skill but can give you more time to save your drones.
There are four flavours of this skill, each of which lets you use one race's T2 light and medium drones. You also get +2% damage to that race's T2 light and medium drones. Gallente and Minmatar drones are generally the most useful, and most pilots will want to train for T2 Gal and Min scout drones. Racial drone specialization at IV is also a prerequisite for that race's T2 heavy drones.

Modules

Drones are renowned for taking the heat off a pilot's module slots, essentially becoming additional damage/EW/logistics without the need to fit, rig or spend cap on them. However, if a pilot is serious about their usage of drones, it is important to be aware of the modules available to help augment their ability[4].

Type
Bonus Requirement Note
Drone Damage Amplifier
T1 +16% drone damage CPU/tf 30

No good drone boat pilot should undock without at least one of these modules fitted.

For those who want to know why it took so long for drones to get a damage-enhancing module, the in-game lore explains the rationale here: http://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/Drone_damage_amplifier_(lore)

Powergrid/MW 1
T2 +23% drone damage CPU/tf 30
Powergrid/MW 1
Drone Navigation Computer
T1 +25N MWD CPU/tf 30 This module allows the drone to get into optimal range faster as well as keep up with a moving target. Since it increases the MWD thrust by a flat amount for all drones, the relative speed increase is much lower for larger drones.
Powergrid/MW 1
T2 +30N MWD CPU/tf 35
Powergrid/MW 1
Omnidirectional Tracking Link
T1 +5% Optimal Range
+10% Falloff
+10% Tracking Speed
CPU/tf 35 This often makes little difference to standard combat drones which have small optimal ranges but can make a difference to the sniping abilities of sentry drones.
This module can be scripted, either with a Tracking Speed Script or a Optimal Range Script, which double the respective bonus and set the other bonus to zero. So a Tracking Speed scripted T1 Omnidirectional Tracking link would have +20% Tracking Speed bonus, but 0% optimal range bonus.
The Module can be overloaded too, which gives an 15% bonus on the effectiveness of the module.
A faction version is also available: it uses slightly more CPU, and costs a lot, but gives a +8% optimal, +16% falloff and +17.5% tracking speed bonus instead.
Powergrid/MW 1
T2 +7.5% Optimal range
+15% Falloff
+15% Tracking speed
CPU/tf 39
Powergrid/MW 1
Drone Link Augmentor
T1 +20km Drone Control Range CPU/tf 50 This is an essential module for sentry drones but of limited use to scout drones due to the long recall times creating the potential for drone damage and loss.
Powergrid/MW 1
T2 +24km Drone Control Range CPU/tf 55
Powergrid/MW 1
Drone Control Unit

T1

only

+1 total number of drones in space CPU/tf 75 This module can only be fitted on carriers and supercarriers.Each module used allows the pilot to field one more drone in space. However, this module requires the Advanced Drone Interfacing skill to use, allowing the pilot to install one control unit per level of the skill. 
Powergrid/MW 75,000

Rigs

Drone Rigs are available that give a bonus to a number of the the drones important specifications. Drone rigs are available in Tech I and Tech II variants. The Tech II rigs are significantly more expensive than their Tech I counterparts. All drone rigs have a -10% penalty for CPU. There is a Skill specifically for Drone rigs to reduce the penalty. Drones Rigging


Small / Medium / Large Drone Rigs
Bonus Penalty
Control Range Augmenter I +15 km Control Range -10% CPU
Control range Augmenter II +20 km Control Range -10% CPU
Drone Durability Enhancer I +20% Hit Points -10% CPU
Drone Durability Enhancer II +25% Hit Points -10% CPU
Drone Mining Augmentor II +10% Mining Amount -10% CPU
Drone Mining Augmentor II +15% Mining Amount -10% CPU
Drone Repair Augmentor I +10% Damage Repair Bonus -10% CPU
Drone Repair Augmentor II +15% Damage Repair Bonus -10% CPU
Drone Scope Chip I +15% Optimal Range -10% CPU
Drone Scope Chip II +20% Optimal Range -10% CPU
Drone Speed Augmentor I +10% Drone Speed -10% CPU
Drone Speed Augmentor II +15% Drone Speed -10% CPU
Sentry Damage Augmentor I +10% Sentry Damage -10% CPU
Sentry Damage Augmentor II +15% Sentry Damage -10% CPU
Stasis Drone Augmentor I +15% Drone Web Velocity Decrease -10% CPU
Stasis Drone Augmentor II +20% Drone Web Velocity Decrease -10% CPU

Care and Feeding

Drones can take shield, armor, and structure damage during a fight just like you can. Shield damage will get regenerated by the drone being recalled to your drone bay and spending some time nestled in its charging socket, but the other types of damage need repair. In a fight, if you have a big drone bay, you probably want to keep an eye on your drone health, and when one dips into armor, recall it back, and launch a fresh drone. It will be cheaper to fix a broken drone than to replace it entirely.

If you're working out of a station with repair facilities, the armor and hull damage can be easily fixed.

However, if you aren't working out of a station with those facilities, it can be more difficult to determine which drones are damaged, and then how to deal with them.

One approach is to try and 'repackage' your drones while you're in station. If they repackage, then they're at full health. Those that aren't at full health won't be able to be repackaged. This is a good way to determine which drones need some attention.

An alternate approach while you're in space is to 'Scoop to Cargo Hold' the wounded drones instead of returning them to your drone bay. Then when you get back to station, you know that the drones in your cargo hold are damaged. However, this has some drawbacks: (1) if you scoop a wounded drone into your cargo hold, it can't help you again until you get back to a station and (2) then it takes up space in your hold which could be used to hold loot.

Once you've determined which drones need some repair, you can load them up and take them to a nearby station with repair facilities. Alternately, you can load them up into your drone bay, mount a remote armor and/or hull repairer module, and head out into space. Once there, launch your drones, target them, and use the remote repairers to bring them back up to full health, return them to the bay (or scoop to your cargo hold) and launch more wounded ones and remote rep until they're all back at full strength.

Notes

  1. E-Uni Forum Post: "Drone damage types and missioning"
  2. Fighters, EveOnline Wiki
  3. Melindra's Universe Drone Information
  4. Eve Fitting Tool

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