Drones 101

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This is a depcrecated class syllabus, intended as historical record for the teaching department.

Creating syllabi is no longer our process for new classes, and no classes in the syllabus library are considered current. They are here for historical purposes only, as well as an optional starting point for designing new classes. Please do not assume any of the classes you find here have slides, or have even been taught for many years. If you do use information in a syllabus, ensure that you have brought it up to date with contemporary EVE.


Class Information

This is a syllabus for a class provided by EVE University. This section contains information about this class and its contents. General Information includes materials to create a proper class listing on the EVE University forum. Additional resources and teaching tips are listed under Notes for the Teacher.

General information

Location of online image for use in forum advertisement: http://i757.photobucket.com/albums/xx216/ScoopIrish/eveuni_trainingismagic_zps458366d9.png

Drones can be a powerful part of any capsuleer's inventory, but only if the pilot knows how to use them effectively. This class provides a general introduction to combat drones.

This class will focus primarily on the most commonly used combat drones. [For more about advanced drones, such as EWAR and operational support drones, you may also want to attend the follow-up class, Drones 102, which will occur immediately after this class.]

  • Class name: Drones 101 - Introduction to Combat Drones
  • Date and Time:
  • Duration: 60-90 minutes

Class contents:

  • What are drones?
  • Drone types
  • How to use combat drones
    • Controlling your drones, with a practical exercise
    • Drones in PvE
    • Drones in PvP
  • Key drone skills
  • Drone-related modules and rigs
  • Q&A

Student requirements:

  • Mumble registration and access - please have your Mumble access sorted out well in advance of the class, using this guide
  • Access to the Lecture.E-UNI/Class.E-UNI in-game chat channel
  • Optional: A drone-carrying ship, with at least one scout drone aboard, for the optional practical exercise. You will need to have trained Drones III and Light Drone Operation I, at a minimum.

Questions? Post here in this thread.

Notes for the teacher

Required materials:

  • Lecture.E-UNI/Class.E-UNI chat channel, to receive questions and post relevant links
  • Optional: A drone-carrying ship, with various drones aboard, to lead the practical exercise, if you have one
  • You may also wish to have the Drones wiki article open, for links to useful illustrations.

While this syllabus is fairly detailed, teachers should not just recite this document. Make sure to read it thoroughly, use its structure as a guide for the structure of your class, but make it your own - feel free to insert your own insights and experiences as you cover the key points.

Class contents


Welcome to this class on Drones 101! Over the next hour or so, we shall review the different types of common drones available to EVE pilots, and discuss how to use them effectively.

If you fly Gallente or Amarr ships, and you use drones extensively, you will find the information in this class to be absolutely essential. If you don't, you should still find this information to be very helpful, as every race uses drones to some degree. If your ship can carry drones, and you aren't using them effectively, you are deliberately limiting your ship's capabilities. If you encounter a ship with drones, knowing more about these weapons may give you the edge you need to succeed, or even survive.

This class shall focus on the most commonly used drones in EVE: combat, mining and [new with the Retribution update] salvage drones. There are other types of advanced drones as well, which provide extended electronic warfare and logistics capabilities. We'll only mention them briefly here, as we cover advanced drones in more detail in another class, Drones 102, which I recommend that you attend if you are interested in learning more about them.

(Instructor should then introduce himself or herself - covering experience level and background.)

We have a few ground rules for this class:

  • This class will be mostly lecture on drone theory and application, running about an hour or so. [It does include a couple basic practical exercises - but these are entirely optional, and you don't need to undock if you don't want to do so.]
  • Feel free to ask any questions in the Lecture.E-UNI/Class.E-UNI chat channel as we proceed - I will try to answer your questions as they come during the class. At the end of my lecture, we'll open Mumble for any further questions or general discussion.
  • You should be docked up safely in a station
  • Please put your Mumble settings on "Push to Talk" if you have not already done so.
  • For those of you who like visual aids, there is a presentation file that accompanies this class. You may view it with this link: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B0OZ3NW7NcyDbXhYa0psUWZLMU0

Everyone ready? OK, then - let's begin....

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 - in this class, you'll learn how to do this effectively.

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 once you are regularly flying ships with a drone bay of at least 25m³ and bandwidth of 25Mbit/sec or higher, which is what you need to carry and field 5 scout combat drones.
  • Bandwidth: A ship constraint 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 constraint 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 can also not transfer drones between cargo bay and drone bay whilst in space. If you want to launch drones, you need to put them in the drone bay whilst docked (or whilst next to a ship or POS module with fitting services).

(Note: you can exceed the five drone limit with advanced modules and skills on certain capital ships, but this won't be covered in this introductory class.)

(Another note for the teacher: someone will invariably mention the Guardian-Vexor, which is a cruiser that can launch up to 10 drones. It is also limited issue, there were only 50 in the first place and nobody knows how many still exist. They occasionally appear on contracts for upwards of 30 billion ISK each.)

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.

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) and 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, and Explosive dealt by Minmatar drones.

Combat drones also come in Tech I and Tech II varieties - in general, Tech II drones are about 20% more effective than Tech I. There are also some faction flavors of drones with different attributes for durability, tracking, and other factors.

The names of each race's drones, from light scout to sentry, are:

Amarr Gallente Caldari Minmatar
(Damage) (EM) (Thermal) (Kinetic) (Explosive)
Light (5m3) Acolyte Hobgoblin Hornet Warrior
Medium (10m3) Infiltrator Hammerhead Vespa Valkyrie
Heavy (25m3) Praetor Ogre Wasp Berserker
Sentry (25m3) Curator Garde Warden Bouncer

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

With the right skills, any pilot can deploy any kind of drone, no matter what racial 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 drones against the weaknesses of expected targets. This is especially useful when conducting PvE missions - more on this later.

Light Scouts

Light scouts are the smallest and fastest drones, taking up only 5m3 (five cubic meters) 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, with 1km optimal and 2 km falloffs.

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

Skills required:

  • For Tech I Light Scout drones: Drones III, 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

Tech I Light Drones:

Amarr Gallente Caldari Minmatar
Acolyte I Hobgoblin I Hornet I Warrior I
Damage EM Thermal Kinetic Explosive
Base DPS* 7.0 8.0 7.5 6.5
Velocity m/sec 3850 2800 3150 4200
Tracking rad/sec 2.49 1.815 2.04 2.7
Optimal Range m 2400 2100 2400 2100
Orbit Velocity m/sec 830 660 745 900
Total HP 400 340 400 320

Tech II Light Drones:

Amarr Gallente Caldari Minmatar
Acolyte II Hobgoblin II Hornet II Warrior II
Damage EM Thermal Kinetic Explosive
Base DPS* 8.4 9.6 9.0 7.8
Velocity m/sec 4620 3360 3780 5040
Tracking rad/sec 2.988 2.178 2.448 3.24
Optimal Range m 2400 2100 2400 2100
Orbit Velocity m/sec 996 660 894 900
Total HP 480 408 480 384
  • Base DPS is the amount of damage per second that a single drone inflicts, before any bonuses for modules, ships or skills are applied. Therefore, even though these base DPS figures may seem unimpressive, a flight of five drones on a ship getting a 10% drone damage bonus, with a further 15% enhancement from a drone damage amplifier module, with a pilot with maximum drone skills, can inflict more than double the amounts of base DPS.

After the Kronos update, all light drones are viable as general purpose light scout drones - Hobgoblins and Hornets for doing the most damage, and Warriors and Acolytes because they can keep up with the fastest of targets. Because Tech 2 Warriors have a slower orbit velocity and shorter optimal range compared to Tech 2 Acolytes, the Acolytes are recommended by many pilots against fast frigates. Warriors are still an option, however, because of their superior tracking. In some situations, damage type can outweigh other considerations, especially when you know what resistance profile your targets will have.

Oddly, the Tech 1 and Tech 2 Hobgoblins have the same orbit velocity, and the Tech 1 and Tech 2 Warriors also have the same orbit velocity. These are the only cases where the Tech 2 variant of a drone does not have an increased orbit velocity.

Prior to Kronos, Warriors were the drone of choice for fast targets, while Hobgoblins were the drone of choice for just about everything else. The two saw roughly equal use in PvP, as shown by the graph from the Giving Drones an Assist dev blog.

Medium Scouts

Medium scouts are the next step up from light scout drones. They take up 10m3 drone bay space, and require 10Mbit/sec bandwidth each. They operate at 1km optimal ranges and 3km falloffs. 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 III, Medium Drone Operation I
  • Tech II medium scout drones: Drones V, Medium Drone Operation V, Drone Specialization I (one for each race)

Tech I Medium Scout drones:

Amarr Gallente Caldari Minmatar
Infiltrator I Hammerhead I Vespa I Valkyrie I
Damage EM Thermal Kinetic Explosive
DPS 11.2 12.8 12.0 10.4
Velocity m/sec 2300 1680 1890 2500
Tracking rad/sec 0.8 0.58 0.65 0.87
Optimal Range m 4800 4200 4800 4200
Orbit Velocity m/sec 525 440 550 470
Total HP 800 680 800 640

Tech II Medium Scout drones:

Amarr Gallente Caldari Minmatar
Infiltrator II Hammerhead II Vespa II Valkyrie II
Damage EM Thermal Kinetic Explosive
DPS 13.44 15.36 14.4 12.48
Velocity m/sec 2760 2016 2268 3000
Tracking rad/sec 0.96 0.696 0.78 1.044
Optimal Range m 4800 4200 4800 4200
Orbit Velocity m/sec 630 528 564 660
Total HP 960 816 960 768

Again, the Gallente medium scout drones - Hammerheads - have the highest damage output, and the Minmatar version - the Valkyrie - is the fastest. Most people will use Hammerheads in PvP for this reason. Remember that in some situations, damage type can outweigh other considerations, especially when you know what resistance profile your targets will have.

Heavy Attack

The largest standard combat drones, Heavy Attack drones take up 25m3 drone bay space, and require 25Mbit/sec bandwidth each. They operate at 1km optimals and 4km falloffs. 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 I (for each race)

Tech I Heavy Attack drones:

Amarr Gallente Caldari Minmatar
Praetor I Ogre I Wasp I Berserker I
Damage EM Thermal Kinetic Explosive
DPS 22.4 25.6 24.0 20.8
Velocity m/sec 1380 1000 1125 1500
Tracking rad/sec 0.63 0.45 0.535 0.71
Optimal Range m 4800 4200 4800 4200
Orbit Velocity m/sec 320 250 280 350
Total HP 1600 1360 1600 1280

Tech II Heavy Attack drones:

Amarr Gallente Caldari Minmatar
Praetor II Ogre II Wasp II Berserker II
Damage EM Thermal Kinetic Explosive
DPS 26.88 30.72 28.8 24.96
Velocity m/sec 1656 1200 1350 1800
Tracking rad/sec 0.756 0.54 0.642 0.852
Optimal Range m 4800 4200 4800 4200
Orbit Velocity m/sec 384 300 336 420
Total HP 1920 1632 1920 1536

Heavy drones will do very little damage to small fast-moving targets such as frigates. They are also very slow, and will take quite a while to cover large distances.

Special Heavy Attack drones:

Damage Omni
DPS 65.6
Velocity m/sec 1820
Tracking rad/sec 0.85
Optimal Range m 4800
Orbit Velocity m/sec 400
Total HP 4990

The Gecko was a special drone given out during an event in early 2014. There is currently a (large) limited quantity of these drones available. They use the Dragonfly Fighter Drone model, and also use twice the bandwidth and drone bay of a normal heavy drone (50 Mbits and 50 m3 respectively). They do not benefit from any Racial Drone Specialization skills. They have the same skill requirements as a normal T1 heavy drone.

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 deal the least amount of damage. Caldari drones do more damage than Amarr and Minmatar, but are also slower than those two. Amarr drones have higher velocities and tracking speeds than Gallente and Caldari, but deal less damage than those two.

Amarr and Caldari drones all have the most total HP. They have the same total HP at each size category. Caldari and Minmatar drones have more shields than armor, while Amarr and Gallente drones have more armor than shields.

And, of course, each race's drones specialize in one type of damage: Gallente-thermal, Caldari-kinetic, Minmatar-explosive, and Amarr-EM.

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-Survival.org before doing missions, which will tell you what kind of damage to deal out, and thus, what kind of drones are best to bring along.

Before the Kronos expansion, Amarr drones had a "bad rep" Because of their lower DPS. They did the least amount of damage compared to all other drones. This position is now occupied by the Minmatar drones. The Amarr and Minmatar drones are, however, quite fast, and they have high tracking, allowing them to keep up with faster or smaller targets.

Many people consider Gallente drones, due to their high 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.

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.


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 the other drones talked about so far. Skills required:

  • 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, Drone Specialization I (for each race)

As of the Kronos expansion, sentry drones do need, and obtain bonuses from, the racial Drone Specialization skills, just like light, medium and heavy combat drones).

Tech I Sentry drones:

Amarr Gallente Caldari Minmatar
Curator I Garde I Warden I Bouncer I
Damage EM Thermal Kinetic Explosive
DPS 25.6 27.2 22.4 24.0
Optimal m 35K 20K 50K 30K
Falloff m 10K 15K 35K 45K
Tracking rad/sec 0.023 0.03 0.01 0.016

Tech II Sentry drones:

Amarr Gallente Caldari Minmatar
Curator II Garde II Warden II Bouncer II
Damage EM Thermal Kinetic Explosive
DPS 25.6 27.2 22.4 24.0
Optimal m 42K 24K 60K 36K
Falloff m 12K 18K 42K 54K
Tracking rad/sec 0.0276 0.036 0.012 0.0192

The ranges and falloffs of the different racial types of sentry drones vary - this is different than ranges for standard combat drones, which do not vary by race. 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 speaking.

Oddly, the Tech 2 variants of Sentry Drones don't actually have higher base DPS. They do gain the benefit of Racial Drone Specialization skills, but otherwise they have the same damage and damage multipliers. The real strength of Tech 2 Sentry Drones is in their increased tracking and range.

Best Worst
DPS and Tracking: Garde Curator Bouncer Warden
Optimal/Falloff: Warden Bouncer Curator Garde

If you have the drone bay space, it's useful to carry more than one flight of sentry drones, for when you moved too far away from them and can't recall them (remember they can't move, so they can't fly to you - if you need to get out in a hurry you might have to leave them). Having a choice of sentry drones is also useful for when you need to shoot at different ranges.

Mining Drones

Aside from combat and support model drones, these drones exist purely to mine ore from asteroids. Skills required:

  • Tech I mining drones: Drones I, Mining II, Mining Drone Operation I
  • Tech II mining drone: Drones I, Mining IV, Mining Drone Operation V

There are only four mining drone models:

Drone Name Size m3 Bandwidth Ore Yield Speed (m/sec)
Civilian Mining Drone 5 5 13 300
Mining Drone I 5 5 20 400
Mining Drone II 5 5 33 500
Harvester Mining Drone 10 10 40 250

Harvester mining drones yield an extra seven cubic meters per cycle over its tech 2 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 a little more than 50% more productive than the Tech I variety, because they collect more ore per trip (33 m3 instead of 20 m3) and they fly at higher speeds (100 m/sec faster).

A common tactic in the University's Amarr Mining Campus is the Dronestone. By coordinating fleet drone usage, it becomes an easier task for everyone.

Salvage drones

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.
  • [As far as we know], a salvage drone's base chance for successful salvage is not 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

Using 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 the Salvaging 101 syllabus for more information on salvaging probabilities.
  • Compared to salvaging using either a Noctis or a destroyer with Salvage Tackle rigs, salvage drones will be vastly 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 won't be covered in detail in this introductory class. If you are curious, be sure to attend the Drones 102 class to learn more. Advanced drones come in several varieties, as follows:

  • 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.
  • 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 5 of them. Fighters and fighter-bombers have almost the same size/damage as frigates. Fighters & 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).

For more information on advanced drones, see the syllabus for the Drones 102 class.

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 a lore/RP 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 NPC pirates.
  • Sleeper drones are found only 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.

Drone Support Skills

Drone Interfacing - the best support skill ever, it increases drone damage and mining yield by 10% per level. It's by far the most effective drone support skill; every other level in it is like having another drone. Before the Kronos expansion, it provided a 20% bonus per level, making every level the equivalent of a new drone. It replaced a previous skill that actually gave you one extra drone in space per level, but this had some major lag issues in big fights, so it was changed to an equivalent bonus to drone damage. If you only ever train one drone support skill, make it Drone Interfacing.

Drone Durability - makes your drones tougher and harder to kill. Useful if you find your drones dying quite a lot.

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 too. (Teachers note in case people ask: it used to have a bug that made your drones do less damage, but this has now been fixed.) Useful to get your drones places faster.

Drone Sharpshooting - increases the range at which your drones can shoot effectively. Great for Sentry Drones, still useful to allow your drones to get into range faster.

Drone Avionics - it unlocks one of the drone modules (the Drone Link Augmentor module), and it also gives you a bigger drone control range for all drones. We'll cover drone control range in a minute.

Advanced Drone Avionics - it unlocks EWAR drones, but possibly more importantly, and it also gives you a bigger drone control range for all drones.

Light/Medium/Heavy/Sentry Drone Operations/Interfacing - increases the damage of their drone type.

<Racial> Drone Specialization - as well as unlocking the relevant T2 drones, it also increases the damage done by those T2 drones.

Drone Modules

Drone Damage Amplifier - a low-slot module introduced with the Inferno expansion, 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 specialised drone ships.

Drone Link Augmentor - a high slot module, increases your drone control range by a lot. Remember that the further you send your drones, the longer they will take to get there.

Drone Navigation Computer - a mid-slot module that increases the thrust gained from your drones' microwarpdrive. Because it increases thrust, instead of directly increasing speed boost, it is more effective in lighter drones. You will gain a much bigger effect from this module for light combat drones than you will for heavy combat drones.

Omnidirectional Tracking Link - a mid-slot module that increases your drones' tracking speed and optimal range. Great for sentry drones, less used for other drones although it can still add some damage, especially if you use your drones against smaller ships than intended (e.g. medium combat drones versus frigates). These can be fit with Tracking scripts, just like turret tracking computers.

Omnidirectional Tracking Enhancer - a low-slot module introduced with the Kronos expansion, it is very similar to the Omnidirectional Tracking Link, with slightly different stats. They cannot use Tracking scripts, just like turret tracking enhancers.

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 with various effects on your drones. I won't cover each one here or we'd be here all day, take a look in the market for them to see what they do - see under Ship Modifications -> <size> Rigs -> Drone Rigs.

Drone Control Range

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

The basic drone control range is 20,000m or 20km. The skill Drone Avionics will increase this by +5km per level, and the skill Advanced Drone Avionics will increase it by +3km per level. Training both these skills to V will give you a drone control range of 60km.

This is always the distance from your ship, to your drones and to your target (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.

Remember this drone control range is only the range at which you can give orders, and that drones operate semi-autonomously. If for some reason your drones do become 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.

(this next paragraph needs more practical testing!)

Watch out when setting drones to attack fast-moving targets such as interceptors. They move at extremely high speeds, which means your drones will often need to activate their microwarpdrives to catch up with them. It appears the drones cannot activate their microwarpdrives when they are outside your drone control range (not too sure of the exact range, but I assume it is 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. Using non-sentry drones as extended-range snipers is not very effective, however, as it takes a lot of time for even the fastest drones to travel long distances - it would take half a minute for the speediest drones, Tech II Warriors, to reach the target at such long range. 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. Sentry drones, on the other hand, benefit greatly from extended range. They have very long ranges, allowing for easy sniping.

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.

Look at your drone control window. This 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, you need to 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).

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. 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 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 new 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!

Drones set to aggressive will not automatically engage a target if doing so would cause a limited engagement. Drones will only engage such a target if you explicitly order them to attack. Before Rubicon, the Mobile Tractor Unit (MTU) did not follow this rule. Someone shooting your MTU would not only gain a suspect flag, but also your aggressive drones would start to shoot at them. This was fixed in Rubicon 1.1 with the addition of other deployable items.

Having drones launched and set to aggressive is very important if you are engaging opponents who have jamming (ECM) capability. You won't be able to direct them between targets if you become jammed, but if you have them set to aggressive they will automatically attack the jamming 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, which is beyond the scope of this class, so we won't cover that here. (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 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.

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 space' bar to order all drones in space.

Your drone command options are: 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. This can mean that if the assisted fleet member activates different modules on different ships fairly frequently, the drones will simply spend their time flying between targets uselessly - the assisted fleet member should be aware of this and just target one enemy for the drones to be useful. 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 & 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.

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.

How to Use Drones Effectively

The wiki page Using Drones contains a lot of useful information and tips on how to use drones to their maximum potential. This class will cover the main points, but consult that page if you want further information and ideas.

More drones will almost always be more suitable than fewer drones. If your ship has a weird bandwidth, try to maximize the number of drones you can launch. On a Hurricane, with 30 Mbit/sec bandwidth, the best plan is usually to launch 5 light combat drones, which gives you one spare in case you lose any. Although light combat drones are designed to be used against frigate-sized ships, they can also dish out pretty good damage on larger ships as well. For this reason, light drones are the most versatile type of drone to carry, and many ships with larger drone bays will stick with light drones.

If you know what targets to expect then you could pick the right size of drones. If you are going out hunting carriers, then heavy and sentry drones would give you the best results (and most resistant to smartbombs). If you are primarily killing frigates, or you don't know what you will be facing and want to be prepared for all eventualities, then light drones are your friends.

You could even mix drone sizes to maximize your applied DPS. If you're killing something big, and you have a Myrmidon with a 100 Mbit/sec bandwidth, then the highest DPS will be gained from launching 3 Ogres and 2 Hammerheads, or 1 Gecko 1 Ogre 2 Hammerheads and 1 Hobgoblin.

It's also important to remember your drone control range. When your drones are too far away from you they will regularly do weird things, and often behave in ways you might not expect. For best results, keep them within your drone control range - if their target is flying too far away from you, unless you really need your drones on the target, then recall them back to you.

Using Drones for PvE

Drones are a very popular option for damage dealing in PvE activities like missions and ratting. They provide cap-free and ammo-free damage, and a variety of tracking speeds and damage types, as long as you can fit them into your drone bay. This variety provides capsuleers with some critical choices to make, if they intend to use drones well.

Starting with the Retribution patch, NPC enemy ships attack drones more aggressively. However, NPCs only target drones in 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 some special "named" ships found in some missions. Note that "elite" NPC frigates and 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 NPC targets before you fly a mission.

As a general rule for PvE missions, you should use the "passive" and "focus fire" settings, and direct light 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 light 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.

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

Drones in Incursions (and Sleepers)

Incursion fleets will often specify one DPS ship (usually the one with the highest scan resolution) as a "drone bunny". Everyone launches their drones, and sets them to assist the drone bunny. In this way, the fleet can be sure that all the drones are working at all times, and that their DPS is going exactly where it needs to. If you are controlling your own drones in incursions, and you have them set to "Aggressive", you can quite easily accidentally kill a trigger, causing a new wave to spawn and the fleet to die in a fire.

Being a drone bunny is not as easy as it looks either. Any drones that are assisting you will always go after the last target on which you activated a 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 instead. Even if you're not in an incursion, if you are trying to kill one target and you try to ECM or sensor dampen something else, assisting drones will follow that last command.

The mobs in incursions, and in sleeper sites, both switch targets regularly and frequently kill small things like drones. If you wield drones in either situation, keep an eye on their hitpoints in the drone window and be prepared to withdraw them if they start taking fire. If you are soloing Sleeper sites in wormholes, the sleepers will love to shoot your drones. Myrmidons can be rather ineffective solo in wormholes, although in fleets this is much less of a problem.

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

Faction Considerations

Before entering into missions with a "drone boat" (a ship designed primarily for fielding a substantial number of drones), 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 the 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 combat 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 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, and then releases drones which fly to multiple targets, without any further direction from the pilot.

This leaves the pilot free to salvage wrecks, and only changing drones if a new wave enters the room (to avoid the drones taking aggro) or if different sized drones 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 Stoneloon Maneuver

First developed by UNI member Stoneloon, this maneuver takes advantage of the Large Micro Jump Drive (LMJD), which was introduced with the Retribution update in December 2012. The LMJD can be fit only into battleships. For Level 4 mission-runners, however, they are a boon to completing even the toughest missions.

To use the Stoneloon Maneuver, you must 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. Sentry drones are also ideally suited for this strategy. Load Warden or Bouncer drones and add Drone Link Augmentors and Omnidirectional Tracking Links to give your sentries the maximum range you can achieve. Drone Damage Amplifiers in some low slots are also good if using sentries. 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, 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 if you have them and 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 sentry 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 3 minutes to allow your LMJD to reset first.

Fighting Rogues

Rogue drones are very fast and generally 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 for an example.

Using Drones for PvP

Unlike PvE, in which you generally can know what kind of enemy you will encounter, PvP is much less predictable. Therefore, drone boat pilots taking their ships into battle should be prepared for multiple types of threats, and load light drones for frigates and drone attacks, medium drones for cruisers and battlecruisers, and heavy drones for battleships, if they can.

The biggest threat to your 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, chances are good that they are going to use smartbombs.

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. But remember it takes time to kill multiple targets, time that you can use to your advantage - you can Nos your opponent, get 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 reacquire the drone targets.

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. Nosferatu him constantly, and disrupt his targeting or tracking if possible. Your drones, going unchallenged will make quick work of your opponent if your 'nos' is draining him and making shield boosting/ armor repairing difficult.

A warp scrambler on your drone boat is a must for small PvP engagements. Multiple nos and neuts are also very useful for taking down your opponent's tank.

ECM drones can be extremely effective against a small number of opponents.

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.

If you are not a drone boat pilot, and carry as few as a single drone aboard, 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. Don't forget to deploy your drone!

Fleet PvP with Drones

Employing drones in fleet engagements can be extremely powerful, if well coordinated. Certainly, you can field 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 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 combat combat drones, as they provide the most flexibility. They engage fast, and can catch almost every type of opposing ship, except for perhaps some 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 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 2500 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.

Class Wrap-up

  • Thanks for attending this class!
    • Would appreciate any feedback from people on how to improve the class
  • Questions ?
  • [Practical exercise: Take ships to designated spot, practice using the drone control window, settings, targeting, and various drone commands.]
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