Combat Probing

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The purpose of this article is to provide information about scan probe mechanics in game, process of busting 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 a complete safety. Covert ops and probe frigates are tailored to find ships at safe spots, however Covert Ops frigates have the advantage of stealth.

Game mechanics


Probes have various attributes. It’s important to understand what they mean:

  • Range – The max range of the probe, from the probe to the side of the sphere it generates. To find anything, it has to be within the range of that probe.
  • Sensor strength – This is the sensor strength of your probe. The higher the sensor strength the more chance you have to find something.
  • Max Scan Deviation – Each probe scan down targets with some deviation. This means that warping to the result will bring you to the target at a distance. Maximum distance a probe can bring you to the target is described by this attribute. The higher your skills in scanning the lower the actual deviation.
  • Flight Time – Every probe have a life span – the amount of time the probe stays in space before it disappears. Your scans have to be finished before your probe expires, however you can scan multiple times until the probe expires or is destroyed.

Skills and bonuses

Astrometrics – Primary skill that determines what probes can be used.
Astrometric pinpointing – Reduces maximum scan deviation by 10% per level.
Astrometric Triangulation – 5% of additional scan strength per level. Higher scan strength allows you to find targets easier and with smaller deviation.
Signal Acquisition – 10% faster scanning with scan probes per level. Very important skill, unfortunately it’s rank 8.
Covert Ops - 10% reduction to duration/activation time of modules requiring Astrometrics per level while flying a covert ops ship. Also reduces the CPU requirement for the Covert Ops cloak to zero at level 5.

Behind the scenes – game mechanics

How does probe scanning work behind the scenes? Every time you scan with probes, you are getting “Hits”. Those hits are chance based, but you can increase your chances by increasing your signal strength . These are improved with probe type selection and skills (see above)., however there is some randomness involved in scanning, so a new scan can give you more or less accurate result. If you haven’t found what you’re looking for, consider a second scan, but remember you may lose the results you got in the first one, so think before hitting the analyse button a second time.

Signal Strength affects also

  • Scan deviation - If you manage to get signal strength above 1.0 with one probe, you will always get 0 m deviation in your results. The lower your signal strength, the higher the scan deviation (or lower accuracy).
  • Chance for a target to appear in your results - signal strength also determines the chance that you will have a hit. Signal strength of 1.0 means your chance is 100%, 0.5 means that your chance is 50%, etc.

Calculating Signal strength

Signal strength is calculated based on sensor strength of the probe, signal size of the target, the range from the probe to the target, your skills and rigs.
The full formula to calculate Signal Strength is:

Signal Strength = (Probe Sensor Strength * (1 + Level of Astrometric Triangulation * 0.05) / 100) * (e^-((Target Range / Max Range)^2)) * (Target Signature Radius / Target Sensor Strength)

You can directly affect:

  • Probe sensor strength – through selecting a lower range, higher strength probe.
  • Your Astrometric Triangulation Skill

You can sometimes affect:

  • The target range – if you have an idea where they are, you can move closer.
  • Max Range – through probe selection.

You can’t affect :

  • Target Signature Radius or Target Sensor Strength.

Using Probes

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 within scan range of close range probes: Snoop probe (5au – 750 000 000 km) and Fathom probe (10 au - 1500 000 000 km).

A proper action when sitting in a safe spot for extended amount of time is to assign one gang member to probe duty, as probes can be seen on the directional scanner. This simple fact can give out your intentions and allow pursued hostiles to leave their safe spot and move to another one if they will manage to spot your probe. To limit the exposure of your probes and your ship to hostile directional scanner one can perform following actions:

  • Destroy your probes as soon as you initiate warp to the results.
  • Always stay cloaked, uncloak only to drop a probe (or jump through the gate).
  • Use your directional scanner to pinpoint their approximate location and then drop most accurate probe for the current situation.
  • Try to limit your scanning time by training your skills, using faction probe launchers or fitting proper rigs on your covert ops frigate.