Drones are stored in, and launched from the drone bay of a ship and require bandwidth to control. As many as five drones may be deployed at a given time from non-carrier ships given sufficient bandwidth and skills.
Drones are stored in the drone bay of the ship and may be launched from there with sufficient bandwidth and skills. Note that drones in the cargo bay cannot be launched, and drones may not be moved from the cargo bay to the drone bay while in space. The size of the drone bay is measured in cubic meters (m³), in multiples of 5m³, with larger ships generally having larger space. Ships with larger drone bays are able to deploy more and heavier drones.
When launched from the bay, drones require bandwidth; if there is insufficient bandwidth remaining, drones are not launched thus remaining in the drone bay. This functions as a secondary limit to the usage of drones and can serve to limit damage just as less power grid and CPU limits the size and number of weapons on a ship. Bandwidth is given in megabits per second (Mbit/sec) in multiples of 5Mbit/sec. Most ships have bandwidth equal to their drone bay size and can deploy as many drones as they can store, but some ships, mainly drone boats, have less bandwidth than drone bay space, and are thus incapable of launching all of their drones at once.
The amount of drone bay space and bandwidth varies by ship with larger ships generally having more. In addition different factions have differing amounts of drone usage and space. Gallente ships generally have the largest drone bays and bandwidth. Some Gallente ships are specialized 'drone boats', designed specifically for the deployment and use of drones. They are able to use a large number of drones and have bonuses to drone usage. The Amarr Empire also fields some ships with spacious drone bays, but not as many, or as large as the Gallente ships. Caldari ships have the smallest drone bays with some ships lacking drone bays entirely.
In addition to the limits placed on drone usage by the ships, there is also a skill limit on drone usage by the level of the Drones skill.
Each level of Drones allows you to launch one additional drone per skill level up to a maximum of five. While the damage and durability of drones may be improved, no ship aside from carriers may launch more than five drones (there is a single exception, the incredibly rare Guardian-Vexor cruiser, which is a ship that most players will never see, let alone own). Carriers and their tier 2 version, motherships, may deploy more than five drones. Each carrier or mothership may fit up to five drone control modules, each giving one additional drone and taking up a high slot. In addition each carrier has a bonus to the number of deployed drones based on the carrier skills; carriers get one additional drone per level, motherships get three. With maximum skills and drone control modules the most a carrier may deploy is fifteen drones and the most a mothership may deploy is twenty five.
Drone range on sub-capital ships can be increased in various ways. The base range is 20km. Scout Drone Operation adds 5km per skill level, Electronic Warfare Drone Interfacing adds 3km per skill level for all drones, not just EWAR drones. The range can be increased with a Drone Link Augmenter, increasing it by 20km per module. Drone Rigs increase range by 15km (tech 1) or 20km (tech 2).
There are various types of drones that can be utilized in multiple sizes. The most common as well as the most varied group is the combat drones, in addition to combat drones there are electronic warfare and combat utility drones to hamper enemy vessels and assist friendly vessels as well as logistics drones to affect repairs on damaged vessels. For industrial pilots, there exist mining drones to gather ore. In addition to the drones themselves, there exist a few modules that may be fitted to improve the abilities of the drones launched from the ship.
The different factions each have their own drones. Drones may be used by any pilot regardless of the pilot's faction and the drones faction of origin, but each faction's drones have differing stats and abilities that should be taken into consideration before you decide to use them.
Amarr drones do EM damage, and have the second highest speed and tracking but have the lowest damage modifier. There are also energy neutralizer and tracking disruptor models. Integrated, augmented and fighter drones also do thermal damage.
Caldari drones do kinetic damage; they have the second lowest speed and tracking, but the second highest damage modifier. They have ECM and shield maintenance variants. Integrated, augmented and fighter drones also do thermal damage.
Gallente drones do the most damage but have the slowest speed and tracking; they do thermal damage. There are Armor repair and sensor dampening versions. Integrated, augmented and fighter drones also do kinetic damage.
Minmatar Drones have the highest speed and tracking, but do the second lowest damage; they do explosive damage. There is a webifier drone and target painting drones based off of Minmatar designs. Integrated, augmented and fighter drones also do kinetic damage.
Combat drones are designed to do damage to enemy ships and are the most common type of drone, being the most useful in most situations and having the least skills to use. Each drone does one type of damage based on the race that made them. There are tech II variants of all combat drones except fighters.
Integrated and Augmented drones are improved variants of Tech I and Tech II Light Scout, Medium Scout and Heavy Attack drones that are built from base versions using rogue drone parts, they are better than their base versions in most areas and do two damage types.
Their extravagant cost and limited availability coupled with the rate of drone loss makes them rare, however.
Light scout drones are the smallest class of drone available, taking up 5m³ and 5Mbit/sec per drone. They are the swiftest drone available having the highest tracking, but are also the least durable and least damaging drones. Due to their high speed and tracking, light drones are best for taking out frigates, destroyers and their tech II versions.
Medium scout Drones are middle of the road drones taking up 10m³ and 10Mbit/sec each. They have mid-range speed and mid-range tracking as well as mid-range durability and damage. They are best suited destroying cruisers, battlecruiser and medium tech II ships, but their mid-range stats make them moderately useful against larger and smaller ships.
Heavy Attack Drones are the largest of the standard drones and take up 25m³ and use 25Mbit/sec. They are the slowest, and have the least tracking, but do the most damage and have the most durability of the basic drones. Due to their low tracking and speed they are best used to attack Battlecruisers and larger.
Sentry Drones are more specialized drones designed for sniping, taking up the same space as heavy drones and requiring the same bandwidth. While the other drones orbit their target at high speed, sentries sit where they are deployed from and fire at enemies from long range. They have a long optimal and falloff as well as more damage and durability, but they have very low tracking speed and are immobile once deployed. Because of this, Sentry drones are best used against large targets or from long ranges. A sentry drone cannot attack targets that are outside its owner's drone control range, even if they are within its own optimal range.
Fighters are a specialized class of drones. Though they are controlled in the same way, they actually are able to warp to follow targets. In addition the launching pilot can place them under the control of another pilot that has the necessary bandwidth and drone control spots available. Fighters are 5000m³ and require 25Mbit/sec to deploy and control. Due to their large size, fighters can only be deployed from a carrier or mothership, their large size and high damage make them suited for attacking battleships and larger. They also do a secondary type of damage in addition to the standard racial damage.
Fighter Bombers are a specialized class of drones above Fighters. Though they are controlled in the same way, they actually are able to warp to follow targets. Fighters are 5000m³ and require 500Mbit/sec to deploy and control. Due to their large size, fighter bombers can only be deployed from a mothership, their large size and very high damage make them suited for attacking capital ships and sovereignty structures. It is very unlikely Fighter Bombers will ever be used against sub-capital ships due to the low tracking abilities and the low signature radius of the sub-capital ships. They also do a secondary type of damage in addition to the standard racial damage.
Like combat utility drones, Electronic Warfare (EWar) Drones don't actively damage their targets, however they can be indispensable if used correctly. EWar drones reduce the effectiveness of enemy weapons while improving that of you and your allies.
Tracking disruptor drones, based on Amarr combat models, reduce the tracking speed of their targets. This has the effect of lowering damage and chance to hit of the target's turrets, and in extreme cases may prevent them from hitting smaller targets entirely.
The Tracking disruptor drones, based on Amarr combat models come in three sizes:
ECM drones have the ability to jam their targets. This has the effect of breaking that ship's target locks and preventing it from re-locking for a short time. This silences all offensive weapons except those that do not require a locked target, such as drones and FOF missiles; even those weapons cannot be re-directed without a locked target. By breaking your enemy's lock, ECM drones can also be used to help you to escape when you are warp scrambled.
More details about ECM drones can be found in the Electronic warfare guide.
Sensor dampeners are slightly less devastating than ECM drones, but are nonetheless, very useful. These drones of Gallente make, reduce the range and speed of enemy targeting systems. If a ships can be disrupted before it achieves target locks, it can add precious seconds of time before their guns begin to fire. In addition the range penalty can be devastating to sniper ships and will break any locks that are at longer range than the sensors are reduced to.
The sensor dampener drones, based on Gallente combat models come in three sizes:
As opposed to the rest of the EWar drones that harm the enemy, painter drones help allies. They increase the signature radius of the target ship. This has a few effects, the first is that it decreases the time required to lock the painted vessel allowing weapons to be brought to bear sooner. Additionally the larger sig radius improves the chance to hit and damage of turret weapons and increases the damage of missiles. The target painter drones, based on Minmatar combat models come in three sizes:
Combat utility drones
Utility drones don't do any damage themselves but they do assist othervise taking down enemies.
Energy neutralizer drones, of similar make to Amarr combat drones, drain the capacitor of the target vessel and come in three sizes, as with combat drones the size of the drone should be tailored to the size of the target. Energy neutralizers are effective against most targets since most modules require capacitor to use, the exceptions are passive tankers and projectile and missile users. They come in three sizes:
Stasis webifier drones, based on the Berserker heavy drone, slow their targets down, preventing them from escaping as well as allowing that ship to be hit more easily by lowering its transversal velocity; they should be used against anything breaking the speed limit. They are only available as heavy drones:
Logistics Drones are the direct opposite of combat drones. They do no damage, and don't harm the enemy or assist friendly weapons, instead they repair damage taken by your allies. This can be used to fix damaged ships after a battle or keep a ship in the fight longer by performing combat repairs. Logistics drones come in Caldari designed shield booster models and Gallente made armor repair units. They come in three sizes with the larger drones repairing more damage and Tech II versions repairing more damage than the tech I versions. The standard tech I variants are:
In addition to the combat and support models, Mining Drones exist to assist industrial players. There are three types of mining drones and a tech II version. The Civilian Mining Drone is the fastest but mines the least amount of ore, the Mining Drone I is the middle ground, but is a good fit for most pilots and ships and can often outperform the other mining drone types. Mining drones and civilian mining drones take up 5m³ and 5MBit/sec. Harvester Mining Drones gather twice as much ore as mining drones but are nearly twice as slow, they take up 10m³ and require 10Mbit/sec to control.
In addition to the actual drones, there exist a few modules that you can fit to you ship to improve your drones. These drone upgrades can be very useful on drone ships that rely on drone damage. Two of these modules fit in the ship high slot while the other two fit in the mid slots.
The first modules is the Drone Link Augmentor I, this module adds an extra 20km of drone control range so you can send your drones to affect targets further away from your ship. They are most useful if you have low levels in the range-improving skills, or for sniping with sentry drones. This module takes up a high slot.
The second module is the Drone Navigation Computer I; this module increases the speed of drones. There are two effects of this, first it takes less time to get into firing range so the drones do more damage. Second faster drones are better able to keep up with their target, and thus stay withing optimal range; by staying in optimal range, drones do more damage. This module takes up a mid slot.
The third module is the Omnidirectional Tracking Link I. The tracking link improves the range and tracking speed on all drones. This allows them to do better damage against smaller, faster moving targets and also gives them a bit more range. As the range of regular drones is rather small, the range increase isn't worth much, but on sentries whose optimal and falloff are huge, these modules can make a large improvement to their sniping ability.
Although it is not mentioned in their description, the bonuses granted by these modules are subject to stacking penalties, so there are limited returns from fitting more than 1 or 2 of them.
This module takes up a mid slot.
The final module can only be fitted to a carrier or mothership. The Drone Control Unit I fits to a high slot and allows the use of an additional drone and one unit can be fitted per level in Advanced Drone Interfacing for a maximum of 5 additional drones. If you plan to use a carrier for attack, this module is for you.
Notable drone ships
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