Combat Probing

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Original text by Matt Andrews, January 2009
Updated and extended by Nick A'dim, Baka Lakadaka, Al'ar Darkwind, Aether, dzu vadqua.
Copyright Agony Unleashed


The purpose of this article is to provide information about scan probe mechanics in game, explain the process of probing out safe spots, as well as some ramifications of covert ops pilot actions.


One cannot fight someone that denies the engagement. One of the ways to deny the engagement is to hide in a safe spot. However, this tactic does not guarantee complete safety. Covert ops and T1 frigates that get an astrometric bonus are tailored to find ships at safe spots, however Covert Ops frigates have the advantage of stealth.


There are four types of probes and two kinds of scan probe launchers in EVE. For a covert ops pilot, it is important to know the attributes of scan probes and launchers as well as understand the differences between the various types.



  • Core Probes: Scan for complexes, anomalies, wormholes, basically anything with the Cosmic Signature or Cosmic Anomaly tag. Core scanner probes have base sensor strength of 40 points (44 for Sisters probes), maximum deviation of 0.125 AU, flight time of 66 minutes, volume of 0.1 m3, and their scan range can be varied from 0.25 AU up to 32 AU.
  • Combat Probes: Scan for ships, drones, and everything that Core probes can scan. Combat scanner probes have base sensor strength of 20 points (22 for Sisters probes), maximum deviation of 0.250 AU, flight time of 66 minutes, volume of 1.0 m3, and their scan range can be varied from 0.50 AU up to 64 AU.
  • Deep Space Scanner Probe: This is a very long range, low sensor strength probe that scans for everything. It is only useful to see if the system is worth scanning at all before deploying other probes. This probe requires Astrometrics V.
  • Moon Scanning Probes: Used to assess moon mineral values. These probes are outside of the scope of this article.


  • Scan Range – This is the maximum scan range of the probe. It is the radius of the sphere the probe generates on solar system map view. The probe will only pick up things that are located within its scan range (inside the sphere). The scan range of probes can be changed.
  • Probe Sensor Strength – How easily a probe can pick up a signal in space. The higher this attribute is, the easier it will be to get a 'warpable' 100% result. Probe sensor strength is affected by several factors: Astrometric Rangefinding skill, your level on Covert Ops skill, and what kind of probes and probe launchers you are using. Faction probes have higher base sensor strength than regular probes. Faction launchers give 5% bonus to sensor strength of scan probes. Sensor strength of probes increases at their scan range is decreased. It is also not uniform throughout probe's scan range but highest at probe's center and lowest at the edge of the sphere.
  • Maximum Scan Deviation – The greatest distance that your probe result will be from your actual target. The lower your max deviation, the easier it will be to position your probes around the result and decrease their scan range to get a warpable hit. Scan deviation is built in, but can be reduced with the Astrometric Pinpointing Skill. Scan deviation does not apply to 100% hits.
  • Scan Time - Time it takes for a probe to complete a scan.
  • Flight Time – Probes will stay in space only a limited amount of time per launch. In this time they can be used to run multiple scans before they expire. When expiration time is near, simply recall your probes. Then you can re-deploy them and re-use them again.


There are two types of launchers:

  • Core Launcher: - This launcher has capacity of 0.8 m3 while combat probes are 1.0 m3 in volume. Thus it only fits core scanner probes that are useful for scanning down exploration sites, complexes, wormholes. Requires 15 CPU and 1 powergrid to fit. Sisters Core Probe Launcher, a faction variant, has slightly lower fitting requirements as well as higher rate of fire (10 powergrid and 1.5 seconds vs 15 CPU and 2.0 seconds for non-faction launcher).
  • Expanded Launcher: - Has capacity of 10.0m3 so it can fit both combat and core scanner probes. This launcher is much more demanding on ship's CPU than the core launcher. Its fitting requirements are 220 CPU and 1 powergrid. The Sisters variety has slightly lower fittings requirements and higher rate of fire (210 CPU and 1.5 sec vs 220 CPU and 2.0 seconds for regular expanded launcher).


Astrometrics – Primary skill that determines how many probes you can have in deployed at once. Starts with four probes at level 1 and increases by 1 probe per level up to a maximum of 8. With 8 probes you will be able to scan two locations at the same time.
Astrometric Pinpointing – Improves maximum scan deviation by 10% per level.
Astrometric Rangefinding – Improves sensor strength by 5% per level.
Astrometric Acquisition – Reduces scan time by 10% per level.
Covert Ops – 98% to 100% reduction in Cloaking Device CPU use per level and 10% increase to probe sensor strength per level


Gravity Capacitor Upgrade 1 – Ship rig that improves scan strength 10%
Gravity Capacitor Upgrade 2 – Ship rig that improves scan strength 15%

Probing Basics


Probes can be dropped anywhere in space by loading them into a launcher and activating it just like a weapon. They cannot be targeted, shot, or scooped by anyone else. It is also possible to have both Core and Combat probes out, however, you will have to deactivate or pull in the Core probes to use your Combat probes to scan down ships. Probes can be seen on ship scanners. Probes can only be launched while uncloaked.

Probing Interface

Probing interface can be found by opening the Scanner window and going to the System Scanner tab.
Here is a picture of probing interface with each feature labeled with a number and explained below.

Labled Probing Interface.jpg


  1. Analyze: Once you click on this, probes will physically move to their assigned sites on the map and perform a scan.
  2. Recover Active Probes: Pulls all active probes back and places them into your ship's cargo hold.
  3. Reconnect to Lost Probes: Allows you establish connection to probes that your ship lost connection to. Probes can lose connection to your ship if you change systems or if your client suddenly drops. They will still be subject to 1 hour timer, however, even if they have disconnected.
  4. Destroy Active Probes: Permanently destroys any active probes you have in space.
  5. Map: Opens or closes your system map so that you can see and move your probes in space.


6. Probes in Space:

  • ID (Probe number): Corresponds to order in which the probes were launched.
  • Range: Maximum scan range of the probe.
  • Expiration time: Shows how much time that probe has left before it is destroyed.
  • Status: Shows whether the probe is idle, moving, or scanning.
  • Active: Can be unchecked so the probe is not displayed on the map. This makes it easier to selectively move or destroy probes.
  • Recover and Destroy buttons: Recovers or destroys that individual probe.

7. Scan Result Filter:

  • Works in the same way as the overview. Before you commence scanning, make sure you have the correct filter set on.

8. Scan Results:

  • ID: Scan target’s individual number. Allows to differentiate between scan results that might be same type of object (ex: two Brutixes). Useful for calling targets for other probers to take note of.
  • Scan Group: Shows what kind of item the target is (ex: Ship, Cosmic Anomaly).
  • Group: Shows Signature type (ex: Unknown, Gravimetric) or ship class (ex: Frigate, Battleship).
  • Type: Exact name of signature (ex: Guristas Hub) or exact ship type (ex: Drake, Thorax)
  • Signal Strength: This number ranges from 0% to 100%, with 100% indicating a full hit that you can warp to or bookmark.
  • Distance: The distance that the scan target is from your location.

Probes are shown on your map screen as silver cubes with six arrows sticking out of them. You can use right mouse button to move the camera in map and the left to change the perspective. This map interface is the same as your F10 map. For easier probing you can double left click on celestials on map to center camera.

Moving Probes

  • Left click and hold arrows to drag probes on one axis at a time
  • Left click and hold sides of boxes to drag probes in 2 axis at a time
  • Hold down shift while doing either to move all active probes at once
  • Hold down alt while doing either to move closer together or farther apart
  • Probes can be moved anywhere on the map, even hundreds of AU away from the system center
  • Probes will not physically move until you press Analyze

Viewing Probes

  • For changing viewing angle double click on probe NAME to re-center view on that probe
  • Hold down left mouse key and pan to rotate view around probes (probes stationary in view)
  • Hold down right mouse key and pan to move entire field of view

Resizing Probes

  • You can right click on probe in system scanner menu to set a specific distance
    • Can select the entire group by clicking on the first probe then shift clicking on the bottom probe then right clicking to pull up the size menu
  • You can left click and drag the edge of a probes bubble on the system map to change size as well
    • Shift can be held down while doing this to resize all active probes in space
  • You can right click on a probe on the map to also change size individually

Recovering Probes

  • Probes must be recovered before the 66 minute endurance timer is up or they will be lost destroyed.
  • After pressing the “Recover Active Probes” button it takes a few seconds for the probes to come to you.
  • Recovering probes will not uncloak you and can even be done while in mid warp.
  • Once recovered, the probes are placed in your ship’s cargo hold but are not put into stacks and must be restacked to be loaded back into your probe launcher.


Every time you scan with probes, you are getting “Hits”. These hits not chance based - if a legitimate target is in range of one of your probes, you will get a result. You will need at least four probes overlapping a target to get a result that you can warp to. These results are as follows:

  • One probe will only tell you if something is in range of the probe. This will generate a red sphere inside your probe’s bubble that is centered on your probe. The sphere gives you a general idea of how far the target is from your probe.
  • Two probes will tell you that something exists on an imaginary ring which shows on what plane and the general area where your target is.
  • Three probes will produce two possible locations for your target. These are still not warpable and will usually show up as just one small circle on your map screen but there will be two entries under your scan results screen with the same ID#.
  • Four or more probes will give you a single location shown by a red (less than 50% strength), yellow (greater than 50%), or green (100% hit). By maneuvering your probes and decreasing their range (thus increasing signal strength) they will eventually give a warpable result when the signal strength reaches 100% and turns green.

Additional probes (up to the 8 maximum) can provide additional signal strength, depending on their geometry relative to the other probes.

A note on Signal Strength

Signal strength is based on your skills, the current scan range of the probe, and the target's signature resolution (ship size) and the target's ship sensor strength. Using a probe at its maximum radius will give a lower signal strength. Narrowing down the radius will improve signal strength. A highly skilled operator will get to 100% signal strength at a higher range than a poorly skilled operator.

You can directly affect signal strength by:

  • Selecting a lower range on your probe.
  • Your Astrometric Rangefinding skill
  • Gravity Capacitor Upgrade rigs
  • Implants

You can sometimes affect:

  • The target range – if you have an idea where they are, you can move your probes closer and get a better signal.

You can’t affect :

  • Target signature radius or target sensor strength.

To get results as quickly as possible you must arrange your probes in an organized manner to maximize your scan area hit by all four probes while still being easy and quick to deploy as you will be moving your probes multiple times for most of your scans.

Following are some examples of probe deployments that Agony pilots employ but do note that how you setup your probes may be entirely different based on what is quick and effective for you. You will find that there are probably as many ways to deploy probes as there are Covert Ops pilots.

Examples of Probe Deployments

Square: The most basic and fastest setup to use. Deploy your probes in a square around the scan target on a flat plane to the target.

Square + 2: One of the more common probe deployments. This arrangement provides additional scan strength from the 5th and 6th probes but takes slightly longer to deploy. Start out with four probes arranged in a square, then add one probe on top and one on bottom.

Square + 3: This arrangement gives additional scan strength from the 7th probe in the middle of the array. Some CovOps pilots and FCs frown on this arrangement out of concern that the target may be more likely to observe probes in space with the 7th (middle) probe relatively nearby compared with the first 6 probes. Takes slightly longer to deploy than the Square + 2 arrangement.


To scan a target down first you must have a target! There are several ways to go about this depending on the situation and what you are trying to find and for each one you must keep several things in mind while finding them.

Enemy ships: There are two general situations where you will be scanning down enemy ships. The first of which is when you know where the enemy is, such as on or very close to a gate, and you are trying to get a drop on them. In this situation you can deploy your probes at a 0.5 AU range in one of the configurations above around the object and get drops almost instantly. For added stealth deploy your probes before you are in scan range and then warp near the grid before hitting “Analyze” so your enemies have little warning that they are being scanned down.

The second situation that happens when scanning down an enemy ship is when you know an enemy is in system but are not sure where. When this happens you can maximize the size of your probes as well as spreading them out to cover as much of the system as you can per scan or you can use your directional scanner to find his general location then work in from a smaller probe size. In either situation once you have his general location you will need to put your probes into a scanning layout as shown in the pictures above and start scanning, resizing, and repositioning your probes as needed until you get a 100% hit.

Exploration sites and Wormholes: Sometimes you will need to scan down exploration sites and other objects for various reasons, one of which can be an enemy in a combat exploration site but you only have Core probes or it is easier to scan down the site than to scan his ship. In both of these situations you will want to do a large scan of as much of the system as you can cover with your probes in the same manner as finding a safe spotted enemy ship and then once a target is found, using your probes in formation to scan it down.

Probing Tips

Probes like every other tool can bring amazing effects if used correctly. One can use this tool ineffectively, only causing pursued targets to move from one safe spot to another.

As pointed out in PVP COVOPS Required Reading article, you can use your own directional scanner, to check, if targets you are looking for are located near a warpable object. This is sometimes preferable as it won't give away your intentions.

A proper defensive action for a hostile gang sitting in a safe spot for an extended time is to assign one gang member to probe awareness duty using his directional scanner. Thus they will be aware your intentions, allowing them to move to another safe spot when they see your probe. To limit the exposure of your probes and your ship to hostile directional scanners you can:

  • Recover your probes as soon as you warp to the result. Probes won't decloak you as you recover them and can be recovered during warp.
  • Always stay cloaked, uncloaking only to launch a probe (or jump through the gate).
  • Use your directional scanner to determine their approximate location and then launch probes as required for the situation.
  • Limit your scanning time by practicing, training your skills, and fitting proper rigs.

Often covert ops pilots might find ship and NPC wreck readings on directional scanner that do not align with any belt - this might be a sign of someone doing a plex/mission/site in a deadspace location. Scanning down a ship in a deadspace location is much more difficult, as a ships signature radius in a deadspace location is decreased 100 times, however drones signature radius is not affected by this and therefore if a ship uses drones in a deadspace, we can scan his drones and therefore gain access to his location.

Another way for a hunting party to find a ship doing a mission in a deadspace is to use core probes - which are lower maximum range and can only find cosmic anomalies such as deadspace and wormholes.

There is also a psychological aspect - seeing a core probe on 360 is not quite so alarming ("oh, someone scanning for plexes") compared to seeing three or four combat probes nearby.

Other References

PvP Covert Ops Required Reading
CCP's Official Scan Probe Tutorial