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.
- 1 Drone Basics
- 2 Drone Types
- 3 Mission Running
- 4 PvP
- 5 Skills
- 6 Modules
- 7 Notes
- 8 See Also
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. They also deal more damage. However, they have very low tracking speeds and cannot move.
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.
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.
NB information on fighter-bombers needs to be added
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 TD-600 in-game.
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.
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.
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.
Drones are a very popular option for people wanting to get involved with PvE, they offer cap-free damage over a variable range of dps, tracking speeds and damage types (assuming you have enough room in your drone bay). Finding the right drone for the job however is very important as with any type of damage dealing.
When completing missions with a drone boat (the term for a ship designed primarily for fielding drones) information on what you are going to expect in terms of resistance is paramount. This information must mainly be the type of ships you are expecting to encounter and their faction. Each faction does and is weak to certain damage types and the size of the enemy ships will help determine what size of drone to use (see the combat drone list above).
The chart to the right provides a mathematical example to the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of light scout drones. A general way of displaying which racial drone damage type would be effective against which faction is displayed below (this does not account for the additional fighter damage type):
|Faction Name||Weaknesses||Best Drone Race|
As you may notice in the above table, multiple races have been suggested for certain factions. This is because the base damage of each racial drone type has also been taken into account as well as the weaknesses of the enemy faction. The best example of this are the Gallente drones which offer higher dps than the other races' drones making them the choice against some factions even when they do not deal the damage type that faction is most weak to.
The following are a collection of basic strategies for handling drone combat in a PvE scenario, this is certainly not comprehensive and is open to player style considerations and popular opinion, its is hoped that these will provide a baseline with which pilots may develop their own stratagem. Also see the Tips and Tricks section on drones for information about drone use in combat.
When piloting drones into missions the usual strategy is for the drone boat to have a powerful active tank with combat drones suited for the factions and ships in the drone bay. The basic idea is for the pilot to gain and hold the aggro (attention) of the NPC pirates and then once achieved the appropriate drones are released and set on targets at the pilots discretion while the pilot fires their guns to aid with dps.
Alternative Ship Tanking
This method is a very slight variation and is often adopted by players who have progressed onto better ships with more slots at their disposal. Aggro is gained and held in the same manner as before, but when the drones are released to attack a targetted enemy, no more targets are made and the drones are left free to pick targets of their own choosing.
This leaves the pilot free to salvage wrecks, 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/smaller ships.
Also referred to as drone seeding, this is a highly unorthodox tactic involving the use of multiple cheap (usually light) drones to speed tank the enemy while the player deals the majority of the damage without taking aggro. This method is mostly used in situations where the pilot is required to "punch above their weight" allowing them to complete a mission they would otherwise have to abandon.
NB: I have chosen to leave this section empty has I have had zero experience with using drones in PvP and am in no way qualified to even tabulate information on this topic. I gladly leave this in the hands of pilots with more experience in these matters.
As many know, in the Eve universe, skills are the key to making a big difference and drones are no exception to this rule. As there are many varied drones in existence, so too are there a myriad of drone abilities to the extent that drones get a section of their own. As such it would be pointless to dictate every single drone skill here but instead to isolate ones key to becoming a successful drone runner.
- Drones V
- This is mandatory. 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. So having less than 5 drones costs you with respect to the damage you can do and is more than the benefits from any other drone damage bonuses you can get.
- Scout Drone Operation V
- Adds 5km to max drone range per level and is needed at 5 to gain access to T2 variants. Range of control is crucial to all types of drones and the tech 2 variants are roughly 2 times more powerful than the tech 1 versions.
- Combat Drone Operation IV
- +5% Damage for light/medium drones. Is a very important skill. Using large drones against small targets doesn't work well. Using the right sized drone against a target yields far superior results. Usually a flight of light drones will decimate a frigate faster than a group of sentry drones can.
- Drone Interfacing IV
- +20% Damage/Mining Yield. This is the second biggest boost skill to the damage your drones can do, directly behind Drones. Training it to 5 takes a great deal of time but training it to 4 will yield more damage benefits than getting a specialization to 4 so the training time really isn't much larger for the benefits you will get.
- Heavy Drone Operation V
- Allows for the use of heavy drones and adds +5% damage per level. When using heavy drones its vital to get V in this skill to open access to the T2 variants.
- Sentry Drone Interfacing IV
- Allows for the use of sentry drones and adds +5% damage per level. Only worth training to 5 if sentry drones are used often enough to warrant T2 use.
- Drone Navigation III
- Increases the drones MWD speed by 5% but can cause your drones to overshoot. Train with caution. Faster drones means they get to the target faster but also will cause an 'over shot' type effect, costing damage as the drones then may need to move back in range of the target. Fast drones against slow targets is where you will see this come into play. (Note: This issue has been fixed)
- Drone Sharpshooting III
- Increases drone optimal range. Another skill to be wary of, this may cause lower dps in certain situations. (Note: This issue has been fixed)
- Drone Durability III
- +5% to drone shield, armour and hull hit points. Not the most useful drone skill but can help a keen eyed pilot save a targeted drone.
- Racial Drone Specialization III
- These come in four flavours each giving +2% damage bonus to drone damage per level. Good if you find yourself sticking to one race of 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.
This module only has one variant named Drone Navigation Computer I and adds +25% to the deployed drones MWD speed allowing them to get 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.
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.