This post is an update to an earlier and less-detailed guide on how to perform a blanket scan of w-space.
The aim of my kind of blanket scan of a w-space system is not to see what signatures are in the system, so that you can pick likely wormholes from the noise. The aim is not to see what sites and signatures there are, so that you can see if it's worth making ISK from Sleepers. The aim isn't even to see what sites, signatures, and ships there are in the system.
The aim of a blanket scan of a w-space system is to see what sites, signatures, and ships there are in the system covertly. It is important to stress the point that neither you nor your probes should be visible to any potential targets or threats. This is w-space. You don't want to be seen if you can help it.
Because we want to stay hidden, we do not launch a deep space probe to get a first look at all the signatures, as this would involve reloading the probe launcher and having our ship remain visible for longer than necessary. We also do not use core scanning probes, because these will not detect ships or structures. We need an expanded probe launcher loaded with combat scanning probes.
To stay hidden, we need to bear in mind an important point: the directional scanner (d-scan) has a range of a little over 14 AU. We need to keep our ship and probes at least that far from any potential pilots in order to remain unnoticed. For our ship, we keep out of range of d-scan simply enough. We can pick a point in the system that is out of range of any ships before dropping our cloak to launch probes. We can check this easily by updating d-scan before decloaking. To keep our probes hidden, we need to be more careful, which is where this guide comes in.
A larger version of each image is linked behind the standard images in this post.
- Find a spot in the system out of d-scan range of other ships and towers.
- Launch probes.
- Optional: Reload your probe launcher.
- Adjust the range of your probes to be 16 AU.
- Move your probe boxes out of the system.
- Hit 'scan'.
- Begin to arrange the probes for blanket coverage.
- Increase the range of the probes to their maximum.
- Adjust the separation of the probes.
- Position the probes to best cover the system.
- Interpret the results.
It is most important to be out of d-scan range of other piloted ships, as we have to assume that they will be pinging d-scan regularly. It is useful to be out of range of towers, even if there are currently no ships present, because many pilots come on-line in their tower, and if our timing is unlucky we'll be spotted at just the wrong moment.
If we cannot get out of range of both other ships and an empty tower, compromise by launching probes in range of the tower and out of range of active pilots.
If there are active pilots as well as piloted ships in a tower, it is still best to compromise by launching probes in range of the tower. Active pilots outside of a tower are more likely to be pinging d-scan than those sitting safely inside a force field.
If the system is too small to let you get out of d-scan range of active pilots, be quick with the process and hope for the best.
I launch five combat scanning probes. This lets me perform two complete launches before needing to reload, which is good if I have nowhere to hide and need to reactivate my cloak quickly. A standard five-probe pattern is pretty much all I need to resolve sites and ships. If your skills require more probes, or you just prefer more for your scanning, feel free to launch more, but bear in mind that you'll have to reload more often, and that you will probably not be able to use your standard scanning pattern for the blanket scan.
If you are safely out of range of other pilots, feel free to take the ten seconds to reload your launcher to be ready for the next launch. If you do this immediately after launching the fifth probe, you won't be much more visible than not doing so, as moving the probes and scanning takes almost as much time.
If you are launching probes in range of active or potentially active pilots then it is best to reactivate your cloak as soon as possible. Because of this, I find it best to have your ship moving at full speed in an arbitrary direction whilst launching probes, so that as soon as the last one is launched you are far enough away from it to be able to cloak.
The range of 16 AU is not arbitrary. This range allows you to gauge when your probes are safely out of d-scan range of other ships.
The default scanning range of combat probes when first launched in a session is 8 AU. This is just for the first probe, however. If you launch one probe and adjust its range to be 16 AU, the following probes will be launched at 16 AU.
Alternatively, you can launch all five probes and adjust their ranges simultaneously. Shift-drag the edge of one of the probes' spheres outwards one increment, to make all the ranges 16 AU, or select all the probes in the scanning interface, right-click on a probe, and adjust the range that way.
Note that probes' ranges during subsequent launches, when no probes are currently in space, are not determined by the range of the last probe launched, but that of the last probe recalled. If, when you have finished scanning, you reset your probes to all be set to a 16 AU range and then recall them, your probes will next be launched with a 16 AU range.
Shift-drag one of the probes to move them all out of the system. I move them directly upwards, out of habit, but downwards will also work. Move them by an arrow, not by a box, as you want them to move directly upwards, whereas moving the probes using a box can introduce some sideways movement.
Ensure that the edge of the probes' spheres is outside of the system's ecliptic plane, including any planets with eccentric orbits. Remember, the aim is to keep your probes out of d-scan range of pilots, so we are looking to put them over 14 AU away from any ship.
Sites will appear within 4 AU of planets, and wormholes generally within the same distance, although it is possible for them to appear with 6 AU of planets. Making sure that your probes are over 16 AU from the ecliptic plane should keep them hidden. To be safe, push them higher than necessary, rather than letting the spheres touch the ecliptic plane.
Your probes won't move with their boxes until you initiate a scan. With the boxes in place, hit 'scan' and move the probes out of the system.
Note that we are moving the probes directly upwards initially, provoking an extra scanning stage, so that they do not warp laterally through the system. It is unlikely that any individual probe will be spotted during its quick warp time, but it is even less likely when we don't even give other pilots the chance to see our probes.
Now that the probes are out of the system, and we are cloaked again, we can arrange them in to a standard pattern. With five probes, I have one in the centre, and four at the cardinal points.
It doesn't matter at this stage to get the probes to cover the system. All we're looking for is to get a roughly equal separation between the probes. The full coverage will be achieved in the next couple of steps.
Note that if you commonly use more probes for scanning, with a different configuration, you may need to alter it for the blanket scan. Primarily, do not position a probe beneath the cluster of probes, as this will put it back in to d-scan range of active ships and negate the purpose of remaining hidden. After the blanket scan is complete, the probes can be reconfigured to a more comfortable pattern if necessary.
For combat probes, the maximum range is 64 AU. Zoom your view out and shift-drag the edge of one probe's sphere to increase the range of all probes to their maximum.
With the probes at their maximum 64 AU range, alt-drag one of the outer probes so that a comfortable separation is created. This should put the central probe at about half the nominal range of the outer probes.
If a system is too big to be covered by this pattern, even at maximum range, you can consider splitting up your probes to cover distant planets, or you can perform multiple scans.
If the system is small, don't feel the urge to compress the separation or range of the probes. Pushing our probes closer together can get shadow signatures, confusing the results, as can reducing the range. We actually get best results using maximum range and a standard separation.
With the probes' ranges and separation done, we can position them to best cover the system. If the system is fairly symmetrical, then the central probe can be placed near the centre of the system. If the system is asymmetric, we'll need to gauge the best position.
When looking to position probes, it can be simplest to look at those in the four cardinal points and see how the closest planet to one relates to the closest planet at another. As long as one planet isn't much farther away from any one probe than another, we should have good coverage.
With everything in position, we can scan. The probes will move from their position directly above you to points across the system, and scan their allotted volume of space.
Despite being over 16 AU above the system, the increased range of the probes lets them scan all around each planet, revealing anomalies, signatures, ships, and structures, whilst remaining out of range of any pilot pinging d-scan looking for probes.
Anomalies can be bookmarked, signatures can be noted, ships and structures can be spotted. If there are no ships, there is no obvious activity and the signatures can be sifted through for further wormholes. If there are no structures, there is no occupation.
If there are ships, see if they are clustered or spread out. This can be difficult, based on the size of the ship, as the rough nature of the scan will have ambiguity in the results. But the noise from multiple ships will often cancel out to give an approximate position for all of them. This can let you know if the ships are likely to be in a tower, multiple towers—and roughly where those towers can be found—or outside of a tower and potentially vulnerable.
Once complete, our probes can remain in the blanket scanning configuration until needed for more focussed scanning or we leave the system. Subsequent blanket scans can be useful for determining changes, or movement, particularly in systems where d-scan doesn't cover the whole system.
Alternatively, if there are ships vulnerable in space, and they are not in a basic anomaly, our probes are launched, hidden, and available. We have already completed the initial steps of how to hunt in w-space using d-scan.