Welcome back, aspiring carrier pilot. Today we’re going to be talking about drones. You will recall from the previous installment that drones are rather important for a carrier pilot. To be an effective carrier pilot, you will need to become one with the Hammerhead. Only when your drones are a part of your ship, young grasshopper, will you be ready for carrier combat… Or something like that.
One of the first things you’re going to notice about your carrier is that the drone bay is fucking huge. The Thanatos can carry four thousand sentry drones. I’ll let you think about that number for a moment. While a full set (10) of fighters will take up a significant amount of the drone bay (50,000 m3), there is still plenty of room for more drones. I usually go into combat with six hundred drones of various types. There is no reason not to have tons of drones. There are lots of different drones and you have room for all of them. ECM drones, damage drones, sentry drones, energy neutralizing drones, armor repair drones: get them all, twenty at least of every type you can use. And since you’ve followed my advice so far, you will already have good drone skills and can use lots of types of drones.
“But, Aliza,” you say, “I’m just going to be sentry drone ratting in my never-has-a-neutral null-sec system. I don’t need all that, do I?” Yes, gentle scrub, you do. The one time you drop the plate of Hot Pockets on the floor and have to pick them up, which inevitably will happen just as you are coming out of warp, someone is going to come and tackle you, and you’re going to be stuck. And since you, in your boundless stupidity, have filled your high slots with five drone control units (because you didn’t pay attention to a word I have written thus far and didn’t have a single heavy neut) and only have sentry drones, that frigate is going to orbit you at 500 meters and pick off your sentries before they get far enough away to track him.
Remember what I said before: everyone wants a capital killmail. So that neut's buddies that are fourteen jumps away in low-sec will come. The alliance that lives in NPC null-sec a region over will come, too. Your alliance is inevitably going to be out on an op, so instead of getting assistance, you will get chewed out by alliance command for being a scrub and ratting when the rest of them are out doing something productive. In short order, you get swarmed, neuted and killed. Your alliance kicks you for being such an embarrassment and you wind up as a feature article on TheMittani.com, probably written by me, explaining how horrible of a carrier pilot you are. DON’T BE THAT GUY.
Lights, Mediums and Heavies
Each racial drone has its strengths and weaknesses. On a subcapital ship, you will frequently have to decide which drone to use as they only have drone bay large enough for one, or maybe two, flights. I want to reiterate that your carrier will have multiple flights of pretty much every drone in existence, except mining drones. You had better never carry mining drones on your carrier.
Gallente drones: Hobgoblin, Hammerhead, and Ogre. These drones have the best DPS out of any of the mobile drones. They also have the worst tracking and speed. All Gallente drones do thermal damage.
Minmatar drones: Warrior, Valkyrie, and Berserker. These are the fastest out of any of the mobile drones. The Warrior II, without skills added in, goes over 5 km/s, fast enough to catch all but the top interceptors. They come in third with their DPS, though, dealing only explosive damage. Their best-in-class tracking means they will apply that damage across the widest range of targets.
Amarr drones: Acolyte, Infiltrator, and Praetor. These drones, along with the Caldari, are defined by their mediocrity. They’re not the best at anything, unless your defining category is “does the most EM damage.” They have the second-best speed, the second-best tracking, and the worst damage.
Caldari Drones: Hornet, Vespa, and Wasp. The Caldari drones aren’t the best at anything, but unlike the Amarr drones, they aren't the worst at anything either. Their DPS comes in at second place, dealt in the kinetic form. They are the second slowest and second-worst in the tracking category.
For you ISK lovers who also fall into the uber-lazy category, sentry drone carrier ratting is the pinnacle of what you can achieve. Why you don’t just get a Vindicator or a similar faction battleship is beyond me. Fuck, stop being so lazy. Sentry drones don’t move, but they do the best damage of all non-fighter or fighter bombers.
The Gallente Garde: Like its mobile cousins, the Garde does the most damage, all in the thermal category. It also has the best tracking. However, it has the shortest optimal range—in fact, it's nearly half of what the second-worst Amarr Curator has-and falloff of any of the sentry drones.
The Minmatar Bouncer: Again, like the rest of the Minmatar drones, it does explosive damage. It’s the second-best DPS of all the sentry drones and has the worst tracking, tied with the Caldari Warden. Its optimal is the second-best, but the falloff is the best out of any of them. Its falloff plus optimal is the same as the Warden’s falloff plus optimal. This means that it can reach out the furthest, albeit with drastically reduced DPS, out of any sentry drones.
The Amarr Curator: You really have to hand it to the Amarr. They’ve worked hard to suck at designing drones. The damage is the second worst, again in EM damage. The optimal range comes in at a third place, only just beating the Gallente Garde. The tracking is second best. The best use for this drone is reinforcing POSes that do not have hardener modules.
The Caldari Warden: This has the best optimal range of any of the sentries, but it is tied with the Minmatar Bouncer for the worst tracking. Like all Caldari drones, it does kinetic damage. It does the lowest DPS out of the sentries, though.