Drones, the Basics.
Many ships in Eve are able to carry and field drones, of course, not all ships are specialist drone boats such as the Gallente
Dominix, or the Amarr Arbitrator based ships, however, in all cases drones can make a valuable addition to a ships abilities. This guide will look at standard drones, we are going to ognore the fact fighters exist as their mechanics are somewhat different.
Ships that can carry drones will have several pertinant stats you will want to be aware of.Dronebay:
Expressed in m3 this is how much space you have available to store drones.
Light drones take up 5m3, Mediums 10m3, Heavy drones and Sentries take up 25m3Bandwidth
: Expressed as MBp this relates to how many drones and what types the ship can control. For most ships this will be a number between 0 and 125. At 0 the ship cannot deploy drones (and wont have a dronebay in any case), at 125Mbp the ship will be able
to deploy up to a full flight of heavy or Sentry drones.Light drones take up 5MBP, Mediums 10MBp, Heavies and Sentries 25MBp. You can mix and match what drones are deployed up to the total bandwidth you have available. For example, an Arazu has a Bandwidth of 40, you can deploy 4 mediums, 3 mediums and 2 lights, or any combination totalling up to 40. Other than the Guardian Vexor, and Carriers/Motherships no ship can deploy more than 5 drones at a time. As guardian Vexors retail (assuming they come up for sale) at around 25 billion (last one I saw was sold for that), its unlikely you will ever fly a sub capital ship able to field more than 125MBp.Drone Control Range
: This is the range at which you can order your drones to attack/Guard/assist etc. You HAVE to be within Drone control range of your target to order your drones to 'attack'. Base level is 20km without skills, this figure is adjusted by skills, mods, and in the case of the Ishtar by ship bonuses. We will cover the difference between Drone control range and drone optimal range later.
Some ships are bonused to various aspects of drones, these are termed drone boats. Generally the bonuses will be either to the number you can carry (Ishtar and Ishkur both have dronebay bonuses), or to the damage and hitpoints of the drones (Dominix, Vexor, Ishtar, Arbitrator and the Amar Recons). Other ships also carry minor drone bonuses, most specifically the various Logistics ships have repair amount bonuses to logistics drones of the type the ship specialise in. The Skills
There are a number of skills that effect drones, obviously these are found in the drones section of your skill sheet (duh!). Again, I am going steer clear of the Fighter specific skills so will detail neither Fighter or Advanced Drone Interfacing.Drones (1)
: The basic Drone skill, damned near all the best drone skills require this at 5, there is simply no excuse.Scout Drone Operation (1)
: Required for T2 drones, its important for that and for the 5km per level drone control range bonus per level, again, get it to 5 as soon as possible.Drone Durability (5)
: Its not a huge increase in drone hitpoints per level, but for the non drone bonused ships its the only one you are going to get. Its worth it just for that. For most purposes there is no point in taking this beyond level 4.Drone Interfacing (5)
: If you are going to be specialising in Drones, this is a must. Its bonus basically adds a full new drone per level, at level 5 you are talking a 100% bonus to your drones damage. No other skill has the same bang for buck. If you are a drone specialist, level 5 in this skill is not merely a suggestion but a requirement. Most other ships could get away with 4, but you will likely want to revisit it at a later date.Drone Navigation (1)
: Makes your little babies travel faster, only a rank 1 skill, if you are flying Domi's/Ishtars a lot get it to 5. Drone Sharpshooting (1)
: Only really useful for Sentry Drones. With other drones their optimal is so tiny this skill really doesnt add much worth while.
For sentry drones however, level 5 is definately wanted, level 4 is a requirement anyway.Electronic Warfare Drone Interfacing
: As there are no T2 EW drones yet there is no point getting this beyond 4 at the moment... other than that 3000 m
drone contral range bonus per level. If you really need that extra 3000 m knock yourself out and go for level 5, otherwise 4 is adequate for most peopleHeavy Drone Operation (5)
: We love heavies... well most of us do. Level 5 required for T2 heavies, its a long train but worth it.Mining Drone Operation (2)
: Mining drones? Whut? TBH the only reason I have this is because I got it at 1 on char creation. Its still at 1!Repair Drone Operation (3)
: Logistic bots are useful things, this is worth getting to level 5 for the T2 bots, especially if you are a dedicated logistics pilot.Sentry Drone Interfacing (5)
: I love sentries, I Loooove T2 Sentries. Racial Drone Specialisations (5)
: One for each racial flavour, required for T2 combat drones. T2 Logistics, Mining and Sentry Drones work off their specific Interfacing skills.Combat Drone Operation (2)
: Adds yet more damage to light and medium drones... a good one to have.The DronesEWar:
EWar drones come in various flavours and sizes, and various levels of usefulness.ECM Drones
: ECM drones are the most commonly seen form of EWar drone, and the most useful. They work much like mid slot ECM modules.
Hornet EC-300 - Jam Strength 1
Vespa EC-600 - Jam Strength 1.5
Wasp EC-900 - Jam Strength 2
Despite the low jam strengths Mediums are more than capable of messing up a cruisers day. Deimos and Thorax pilots often use ECM Drones if they are gank fit, the drones acting as their tank. Personally I find EC-900's too slow and prefer to stick to 300's and 600's.Energy Neutralizing Drones:
I rarely see these, and rarely use them. The cap neutralising is limited (25 per cycle for large down to 5 per cycle for small). In all its far more useful to pack a high slot neut and damage drones.Sensor Dampening Drones:
Again, I almost never use these as they are relatively ineffective. For a short range ship they wont damp enough, for a ong range ship the flight time to target is restrictive. Satsis Webbifing Drones:
Only one, the Berserker SW-900 is possibly one of the most useless drones going. Fine, they web things... but most of the things you really want to web are MUCH faster than this drone is! In most cases damage drones are far more effective.Target painting Drones:
I dont use missiles, so I dont use these at all, as a result I couldnt really tell you how effective (if at all)0 they are.Tracking Disrupting drones
: Possibly more use post QR, but you are still better off fitting a TD in the mids and using your drone bay for more useful drones.Logistics Drones
Like most drones these are sized, logistics drones are very useful. I always keep a spare small armor bot or two in my drone boats to rep up damaged drones. They are also useful on ship. Logistics drones require a target to be activated on, like remote rep modules they CANNOT be used on your own ship. Nothing stops you using them on your own drones or on your gang mates though. Logistics drones come in T1 and T2 varients, for T2 you will require Logistic Drones Interfacing 5, the extra repair rate
per cycle, and the extra speed are well worth the training.
The benefits of T2 logistic drones are increased MWD and Orbit speed, and increased repair rate. They also have increased Hull, Armour and Shield. Mining Drones
: I am going to skip this, as I dont use them, never will, no dronebay of any ship I own will be sullied by rock munchers!Combat Drones, a comparisonT1 Light Combat Drones
Warrior I: DMG 15 (exp), tracking 2.7, MWD Speed 4200, Speed 750, Damagemod 1.3
Hobgoblin I: DMG 15 (the), Tracking 1.815, MWD speed 2800, Speed 550, Damagemod 1.6
Hornet I: DMG 15 (kin), Tracking 2.1, MWD speed 3200, speed 600, Damagemod 1.45
Acolyte I: Dmg 15 (EM), Tracking 2.7, MWD Sped 3800, Speed 650, Damagemod 1.15
Warriors and Hobgoblins are most commonly used in PvP, Warriors for their speed and tracking, hobgoblins for their far higher damage. Hornets are being
used more these days thanks to their superior speed and tracking when compared to Hobgoblins, and better damage than Warriors. Personally however I tend to stick to warriors and hobgoblins.
T2 light combat drones have more hitpoints than T1, higher damage modifiers (base damage remains the same), better tracking and are faster. Warrior II's are almost fast enough to catch most post QR Interceptors before modifiers to speed based on skills and modules are added.T2 Light Combat Drones
Warrior II: Dmg 15 (expl), tracking 3.24, MWD Speed 5040, speed 900, damagemod 1.56
Hobgoblin II: Damage 15 (the), Tracking 2.178, Mwd Speed 3360, Speed 660, damagemod 1.92
Hornet II: Damage 15 (kin), tracking 2.52, MWD Speed 3840, Speed 720, damagemod 1.74
Acolyte II: Damage 15 (EM), tracking 2.964, MWD Speed 4560, speed 780, damagemod 1.38
As can be seen T2 drones are far, far superior to T1, when you add skills to the picture these differences become even more pronounced.T2 Light Combat Drones + Skills
A Note on the skills, I used my main whose skills for drones are maxed, bar the drone specialisations which are at 4.
Warrior II: MWD Speed 6300, damagemod 4.212 Warrior I: MWD Speed 5250, damage mod 3.25
Hobgoblin II: MWD Speed 4200, damagemod 5.184 Hobgoblin I: Mwd Speed 3500, damage mod 4
Hornet II: MWD Speed 4800, damagemod 4.698 Hornet I: MWD Speed 4000, damagemod 3.625
Acolyte II: MWD Speed 5700, damagemod 3.762 Acolyte I: Mwd Speed 4750, damagemod 2.875
When you also consider that the T2 drones are going to be significantly tougher, its really a no brainer. T2's are tougher, have better tracking better orbit speed, far better MWD speed and increased damage over their T1 counterparts, in short, they are superior in every way bar one... cost. If you then add a bonused drone boat such as an Ishtar to the picture the superiority is accentuated even further.
On the whole the Amarr drones are not worth using, they are slower than Minmatar drones, have lower damage, and while their tracking is better than either caldari or gallente drones its still only a match at best to the Minmatar drones. Caldari drones can be useful, especially if your opponant has a potential kinetic resist hole. In most cases however people tend to use Gallente or Minmatar combat drones. Many ships have a Thermal hole which suits the high damage of the Gallente types, while many armour tankers often have weaker Explosive resists which naturally suits the Minmatar drone types.
When it comes to heavy drones the polarisation is further accentuated, even post QR Ogre II's are the most popular T2 heavy drone going, while slow this isnt a problem against the targets they are deployed to kill (Cruisers and above, though they are best against BC and BS). As a whole their massive damage bonus compensates for any differences in resist spread. I have seen Berserkers used more and more these days though, their superior tracking really does make them much more use against cruiser size targets than Ogre II's. Using Combat Drones
Combat drones are best used at distances of 20 - 25 km or less, preferably no more than 15 km for heavies though you could go to 30 or so km for your lights. If you are regularly engaging with heavy drones at over 20 km I would suggest a switch to Sentry drones. Sentries however will be covered slightly later.
There are two main reasons drones are relatively short range weapons. The first is travel time, it takes time for your drones to reach target, therefore you want to ensure that the distance they have to travel
is as short as possible. The longer they are travelling from target to target, the less DPS you are applying. In a long fight that could really make a hell of a difference. The second reason is damage management. Many people will attempt to target your drones, especially if you are flying a specialist drone ship such as the Dominix or Ishtar. The closer you are to your drones the easier it is to recall them and spit them back out. While recalling a drone taking damage no longer heals its shields, it does break the lock your opponant has on the drone meaning he has to spend precious moments relocking it. In PvP you cant just spit your drones out and leave them to it like you can in missions or while ratting, they WILL be targeted, so managing your drones is vital. You will spend a good amount of your time pulling drones in individually and then immediately redeploying them. Its a pain in the backside to do but unless you want your teeth pulled real early learn to do it. Despite what many people seem to think flying a drone boat does actually require some thought, and a great deal of management.
You will still lose drones, but the trick is not to keep them alive permanently, but to keep them alive long enough to turn your enemy into a pile of floating scrap. If he is flying minmatar, your aim is to make him a motionless pile of scrap! Small distinction I know, but an important one
Dont try and snipe with combat drones, it doesnt work, sure, I can easily get a drone control range of 150+ km, more with Apocrypha, but it would take my Ogre II's so long to get there my target would have warped off, got married, had kids and died of old age by the time they get there. Lights are faster, but at those sorts of ranges they are only really any use for scaring off Falcons and tacklers as the ship you sent them after will be long gone before they get there.
If you can, assign your drones to a fast locker in your fleet. You do this by right clicking on the active drones in space, scrolling to assist, then choosing the fleet member in the dual sensor boosted Stiletto of pod rapeage. Drones that are assigned to assist will automatically target and proceed to seriously maim whatever the pilot they are assisting agresses. Be aware however, you still have to be in drone control range of the target, and you cannot be cloaked. In fact you cannot cloak with drones active. The advantage of setting drones to assist is you dont even have to target, mana from heaven for lazy Domi and Ishtar pilots.Sentry Drones
The two sentry drones most often used in PvP are Garde II's and Bouncer II's. Other than tracking and damage the main differences between the sentries are range.Curator
: Curators have lower range than Bouncers, lower damage but better tracking. Despite the better tracking the Bouncers far superior range and damage make them a far better choice in the mid to long range role over Curators. Really, Amarr drones are cursed, I think the factories that build them are full of subversive workers who spend all their time sabotaging them.Bouncers
: Bouncers have a good range, 48km for Bouncer II's, as importantly they also have a good falloff. While their tracking isnt as good as the Curators they can easily reach the unadjusted drone control ranges of most ships. They also have good damage, second only to gardes which makes them a good choice if you are wanting something a little better range wise than Gardes but with better hitting power than the Wardens.Wardens
: Wardens have the best range of the sentries, but the lowest damage, they also have good tracking but on the flip side its easier to get under them. I have experimented with a sniper sentry domi fit that managed 130 km on guns and drones, but really a true sniper range setup is currently impossible. As Bouncers can hit out at the kind of ranges Sentries are generally used to Wardens tend to be dropped in favour of Bouncers.Gardes:
These are the high damage knife fighters of the Sentry drone world. With a Sentry drone damage augmentor rig a Dominix fielding 5 Garde II's can inflict higher DPS than it could with Ogre II's out to an unadjusted 24 km... of course, that does not take into account skills. My main is engaging at 30 km, 36 km if I use an omnidirectional tracking link. Using Sentries
Sentry drones are excellent for applying damage at range, however, they do have one major disadvantage, they cannot move. As a result you either have to sit next to them, or leave them to
close into your engagement range. If you sit on them you can scoop and redeploy as normal, or you can scoop them if you need to switch drone types. However, sitting on them does limit you
to engaging at the same distance as your drones, also, being a relatively immobile target does pose its own problems.
personally I leave my sentries and close to my engagement range. This does mean I cannot scoop them if they are taking damage. That however isnt too much of a problem as sentries are surprisingly tough and if they are targeting the sentries they are ignoring me and the 3 heavy neuts on my domi! If I need to switch drone types I am forced to abandon the sentries and hope I can pick them up later.
Despite this they do counter one of the most annoying problems with using drones at range, travel time. Sentry drones are instant DPS, and in the case of Garde II are actually pretty high DPS.
If you are on a static defense one way of using your sentries is to assign them to assist your dual sensor boosted Stiletto pilot, I have seen half a dozen Ishtars with Garde II's deploys sat on a gate
absolutely rip apart everything that came through because their sentries engaged whatever the Stiletto tackled almost as quickly as he tackled it. Alpha from that many Garde II's is nasty, very nasty.
Sentries are also useable if you are unlucky enough to have to do some POS bashing. Bouncer II's are best though you can use Garde II's if you have the skills and fit an Omni Directional Tracking link.
If your skills are good, and you have good range, you can use sentries to put the hurt on EWar ships that stray too close. The only time I ever used Curator II's in combat I popped a Blackbird in 2 volleys, or rather, my Curators did, I was jammed moments after ordering them to attack
thats about all for this for now, Its not quite complete but I'll edit the rest of it in later...