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.
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 meters cubed (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, or by selecting them in this window and then clicking the launch button in the selected item window.
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.)
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 (in fact, their bandwidth requirements in Mbit/sec is always the same number as their 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.
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 are capable of serving many different roles and exist in many different sizes. The most popular use of drones however is in combat.
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*|
*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
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. Sentries are the only type of drone which can have their damage increased by fitting something -- the Sentry Damage Augmentor rig.
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. This can be summarised by the following table:
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.
The following table displays the differences between the four fighter drones:
|Drone Name||Race||Base Damage
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.
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.
Stasis Webification (SW)
This drone slows the sub-light speed of the target, making them easier to hit and damage. Only one size of webber drone is available, the heavy-drone-sized Berserker SW-900. Its effect is equivalent to a third of the effect of a T2 web, and its effects will be stacking-penalized with other SW drones or with normal web modules.
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', &c).
These drones work to repair the shield of the target and use the designs of the small, medium and heavy Caldari drones.
These drones work to repair the armour of the target and use the designs of the small, medium and heavy Gallente 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
|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.
The following table lays out the names of each different kind of drone.
Faction, Augmented and Integrated Drones
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.
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.
- Training this to V is mandatory for nearly everyone. Each drone you add increases your damage output. 2 drones = 100% over 1. 3 drones = 50% over 2. 4 drones = 33% over 3. 5 drones = 25% increase over 4. Having less than 5 drones costs you DPS.
- Scout Drone Operation
- Adds 5km to max drone range per level and is needed at 5 to gain access to T2 light and medium drones. Range of control is crucial to all types of drones and T2 drones are roughly twice as powerful as T1 drones.
- Combat Drone Operation
- +5% Damage per level for light/medium drones. A good candidate to train to at least IV, for obvious reasons.
- Drone Interfacing
- +20% 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.
- Heavy Drone Operation
- 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 125m3 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.
- Sentry Drone Interfacing
- 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.
- Electronic Warfare Drone Interfacing
- 3,000m more drone control range per level for all drones (yes, all drones, not just 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.
- Drone Navigation
- 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.
- Drone Durability
- +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.
- Racial Drone Specialization
- 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.
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.
Drone Navigation Computer
This module only has one variant named Drone Navigation Computer I and adds +25 N thrust to the deployed drones MWD, allowing it to get the drone into optimal range faster as well as keep up with a moving target. It has a very low powergrid usage and the lowest of the CPU usage of all the modules at 30 tf. Since it increases the thrust and not the speed bonus of the MWD, the actual speed increase it gives your drones is reduced drastically with the size of the deployed drones, meaning for instance it will give a substantial increase to a small drone, whilst leaving a heavy drone's largely unaffected.
Omnidirectional Tracking Link
The Omnidirectional Tracking Link I adds +20% to both the optimal range and tracking speed of drones. This often makes little difference to standard combat drones which have small optimal ranges but can make a big difference to the sniping abilities of sentry drones. This module uses very little powergrid and has a CPU usage of 35 tf. A faction version is also available: it uses slightly more CPU, and costs a lot, but gives a 25% bonus instead of 20%.
Drone Link Augmentor
This module comes in two variants Drone Link Augmentor I and Black Eagle Drone Link Augmentor they add 20km and 26km to drone control range respectively as well as using 50 tf and 45 tf CPU respectively, both have very low powergrid usage.
Drone Control Unit
This module only has one variant: Drone Control Unit I and per 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. The fitting requirements for this module are massive, needing 75,000 MW of the powergrid and 7,500 tf of 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.