Drones are robotic craft that are only used when supporting their owning ships or stations.
Drones fall into two broad categories:
- Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV; remotely-piloted by the player).
- Only available for the Player Ship).
- Offer a range of fighting and support capabilities.
- Unmanned Ranging Vehicle (URV; autonomous drones).
- Fighting class (able to be equipped by capital ships and the Player Ship).
- Support class (only available for the Player Ship).
- Civilian class (only available for non-player ships).
Player ship drones
The Skunk may equip a maximum of 8 drones, which can be of most of drone types. There is a maximum drone control range of 20 km outside which drones self-destruct. <Playership> drones must be bought from drone dealer NPCs: they cannot be bought from Shipyard Ship Dealers. All drones in the Skunk can be accessed through the Ability Menu ("T").
- Drone Dealers provide a selection of player drones to buy/sell. Other drone dealers, even on the same platform, may have different selections of drones and different prices so it can pay to shop around. Further savings can be made with a good personal discount from the vendor by smalltalking them.
- The Construction URV was removed from all Drone Dealers in the past and cannot be equipped by the Skunk.
The Ability Menu contains 10 buttons and respective hotkeys. The prominent 8 blue ones correspond to equipped drones. The red ones at the 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock positions appear when the mouse hovers over those areas. At 9 o'clock is the Smart Defence command, which launches all available Fighting URVs, which adopt defensive rules of engagement (see below). The command at 3 o'clock, Recall Drones, instructs deployed Fighting URVs to dock. All drones can be individually launched through the Ability Menu, and launched URVs will automatically dock after a period of inactivity.
While the Skunk is capable of carry up to eight fighting URVs, the player is MUCH better served bringing along a Light Sul or even a Rahanas if they wish for sustained drone support. While these two ships are unlikely to survive heavy combat they do provide the potential for many waves of drone reinforcement, whereas the Skunk has none after the first eight are gone.
Drones for other ships
Drones for L and XL ships (plus M Miners) are obtained from stations.
- When ordering a ship the player can specify a number of drones to come with it.
- An L or XL ship dealer can be ordered to retrofit drones to existing ships of the appropriate type. This is done using the 'Modify Ships' option in the 'Equip Drones' section. As ship dealers are end consumers it is likely going to cost more than other ways to obtain drones.
- L and XL ships can be ordered to "transfer drones as drones" from one ship to another; this is done by the 'Transfer Wares' order and requires both ships to have operational drone bays. NOTE: When dealing with cargo ship transfers, care must be taken not to accidentally transfer drones as wares (ie to the recipient's cargo bay) rather than equipping them for use; and also that drones are not unintentionally transferred from equipped (on the transferring ship) instead of from its cargo.
- Drones can be acquired as tradable wares from factories & will be stored in the buyer's cargo, not equipped; being able to find a good drone deal from a URV manufacturer can save quite a bit of credits using this method, especially if multiple discounts are applied.
Later in the game this can be eased through storing drones on stations and using Manual Transfer orders to equip them to our own stations.
Example stations for drone resupply hubs:
- URV production stations are obvious candidates.
- Theoretically, any station set up to buy many drones via the new Resupply Options menu.
- HoL DLC's Warehouses can be setup to buy drones directly.
Drones for stations
Rebirth 4.00 simultaneously introduces the ability for stations to use fighting drones, and a streamlined way for station Managers to replace lost drones through the new Supply Options menu. Perhaps if we're lucky, the next game or a mod could support the automatic resupply of combat drones on ships (related L3+ Ideas thread, requiring DevNet membership via forum profiles, is here).
ROVs ("Remotely Operated Vehicles")
As the name suggests, these are drones that <player> needs to remotely control; as such, only one may be used at a time. When <player> exits the drone it will automatically return to <playership>. If "retain speed in menus" is set to "no", the Skunk will be immobile during this time; if not, which may include while in Flight Assist Off mode (not tested), the Skunk will drift away. No more than two of a particular Support ROV may be equipped at a time. The Trojan is a little odd in that it is described as an "ROV/URV" but in practice, it only behaves as an ROV.
|Hull||Equipment / role||Max effective|
range to target (m)
|Fighting||Assassin||-||24k||200||1k||2 x Pulsed Maser 1||2,380||2 x 1,400|
|Support||Beholder||1||20k||100||1k||Detailed scanning of Info|
Points for revealing greater
%s for hardened modules;
Higher Marks unlock further
|Trojan||-||456k||100||1k||Hacking ships or stations||100||-|
|Traitor||-||327k||150||1k||Deployment of limpet mines||<1,000?||lots|
URVs ("Unmanned Ranging Vehicles")
Strictly speaking these should be called Autonomous URVs: they are drones that fly themselves and help in combat situations. Within the Skunks maximum, there are no limits on how many of an individual URV type may be equipped. Fighting URVs operate with rules of engagement similar to a Defence Officer's "Defending" order: once launched, they will automatically attack targets that are attacking the Skunk, but not those that are no longer able to attack at that time (eg if <player> has nuked all their weapons).
|Class||Name||Mk||Cost||Speed (m/s)||Hull||Equipment / role||Range (m)||DPS|
|Fighting*||Interceptor||1||70k||242||4k||2 x Pulsed Maser 1||2,380||2 x 1,400|
|2||300k||242||6k||2 x Pulsed Maser 2||2,520||2 x 2,000|
|Intrepid||1||100k||196||8k||2 x Plasma Repeater 1||2,880||2 x 2,400|
|2||417k||196||12k||2 x Plasma Repeater 2||3.040||2 x 3,300|
|Overrun||1||133k||164||8k||2 x V Launchers||???||???; area|
|2||511k||164||12k||2 x V Launchers|
Boosts shield recharge after redocking
|Defence Grid||-||15K||164||2K||Generates a shield wall in front of the Skunk|
|Civilian||Construction||-||Speeds up repairs & station construction||n/a||n/a|
|Cargolifter||-||Transferring wares between ships/stations|
Collects ware containers in space
|Scoop Collector***||-||Collects Hydrogen/Ions/Plasma||n/a||n/a|
* The Fighting Class also includes Assault URVs, which are essentially a URV equivalent of the Traitor ROV, but they do not work so are not listed.
** Whilst they look very nice and hint at potentially unique versatility, the shield walls don't seem to prevent weapon fire or ships passing through them. The Skunk bumps off their wall, or passes through with a bump at speed, so the walls may potentially detonate missiles (if they do, this could allow for some amusing but niche interactions with Balors and missile turrets).
*** Employed by Mining Ships.
Effects of Drone Launch Pad destruction
Destroying the Drone Launch Pad destroys all docked drones (even cargolifters, which don't even launch from there) and prevents the equipping of new drones until it is repaired. Drones that are in space when the pad is destroyed while the player is IZ are unaffected.
It's a somewhat complicated issue to adjust because drone presence is tied into Boarding Resistance and the only way to reduce Boarding Resistance derived from docked drones is by destruction of the pad. Loss of a drone pad and its remaining drones can explain why you may see no info about units afterwards as when there are no drones left, that part of the ship's Detail Menu in the UI does not appear.
Occasionally the player may run into an issue with boarded ships having no drone launch pad but still listing some units as "in use" (usually cURVs repairing the ship). Despite being "in use" they seemingly have no physical manifestation so the units may be permanently stuck in this state, surviving even if the drone launch pad is destroyed again. This can be fixed by waiting until the drone launch pad is rebuilt and then transferring the drones back and forth with another ship or station. After the transfer completes they will function correctly as normal units.
Unfortunately, drone pads are always one of the last components for an Engineer to repair and without one it is impossible to launch Construction URVs (cURVs) which would otherwise increase repair speed drastically. This is especially the case for bigger ships where the drives take forever to repair and so cURVs would be most helpful, but the drives are fully repaired before the drone bay is.
Varied susceptibility and resistance of the Drone Launch Pad on different ships
Taking the Balor as an extreme example, it is small for a Large ship so more hits to the hull are likely to hit the Drone Launch Pad than hits to larger ship hulls. The small size of the Balor also makes it more likely that if part of the Balor hull is in range of an exploding ship's reactor blast, it could include the Pad. Fortunately in this case, Rebirth 4.00 increased the strength of the shield generator protecting the Balor's Pad from Mk1 (50,000 HP) to mk3 (150,000 HP).
A limited number of ships are more resistant to loss of their Pads:
- The Heavy Sul and Sanahar's Pads are protected by their Hull Shields (higher chance of shield depletion but less likely to lose the pad early in combat).
- The Styrvok, Stromvok and Lepton have internal Drone Launch Pads that cannot be targeted.
- The Arawn has two targetable Pads but they are deep inside the ship, well protected from stray fire.