The best prober ships, for finding things, are the tech-2 covops frigs fitted with two tech 1 grav rigs ... everything else being equal they give you better scan strength than anything. T3s' main advantage over covops is the nullifier, making moving around a little less encumbered. T3s do not scan things down better than suitably fitted tech 2 covops frigates.5 and 7 probe patterns are fine for part-time probers but when you're getting serious and handling lots of signatures nothing is quicker ... for finding a location / ship or for sorting out dozens of signatures in a system ... than the concentric-eight setup.
This is intended to be a guide to combat scanning within Eve Online. While I wanted to write one that dealt with combat scanning during fleet fights, I felt that a base was needed to build upon - this guide is my attempt to construct that base. If you would like to watch a video guide, feel free to watch this one I made... sorry about the sound.
Astrometrics: This skill dictates how many probes you can have active at a single time. The default is three probes and the skill increases it by one per level. Four probes are the minimum amount you need to get results from a scan. I recommend training this to a minimum of four.
Astrometrics Rangefinding: This skill increases your scan probe strength by 10% per level, which makes getting results easier. Ideally, you take this skill to five, especially if you're looking to be serious about probing.
Astrometrics Pinpointing: This skill reduces the deviation of your results by 10% per level, which means that your result will be closer to the actual target. Eve University has a good explanation about it. The skill becomes more useful when you scan at larger distances. You'll want this skill at a minimum of three to be functional, but higher is always better.
Astrometrics Acquisition: This skill reduces your scan time (the time it takes after hitting analyze for the results to return) by 10% per level. At level five, this reduces your probe time to 4.5 seconds. Get this to at least four, five if you plan to be serious about it.
Probe launchers: Core Probe Launcher I and II. Core probe launchers are used with core probes; probes that are only used for non-combat probing. Expanded Probe Launcher I, II and Sister's are required for use of combat probes. The Expanded Probe Launcher II grants +5% scan bonus, and Sister's grants +10%.
Combat probes: Basic combat probes have a sensor strength of 20, while Sisters probes have a sensor strength of 22. While this may not seem like a large difference, don't forget that you use seven probes and all the skills and implants make the gap larger.
Rigs: Small/Medium/Large Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I and II. These rigs increase your scan strength by an additional 10% and 15% respectively. The cost of the II is somewhat expensive in terms of ISK and fitting, so I recommend the Tech I instead unless you're going all out.
Implants: A Low-grade Virtue set provides a massive cumulative bonus to scan strength; 1-5% for Alpha through Gamma, with the Omega providing a 25% bonus to the bonuses of the other implants. The full set gets you an additional 10% bonus. Note that these are only really necessary for probing down ships fitting ECCM, such as the typical off-grid command ships.
AQ-702/706/710 reduces probe scanning time by 2/7/10% each for the seventh implant slot.
AR-802/806/810 add another 2/6/10% scan strength to your probes for the eighth implant slot.
Inexpensive: Buzzard, Anathema, Helios, Cheetah. Along with decreasing Covert Ops cloak CPU requirements, the Covert Ops skill also increases scan strength of probes by 10% per level. Slap on an Expanded Probe Launcher and two Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I and you have a ship capable of combat probing.
Semi-expensive: The previously listed ships, but throw on a Sisters launcher instead. Force Recon Ships (Rapier, Arazu, Falcon, and Pilgrim) don't get a scan strength bonus but are still more than capable of fitting and using a probe launcher. Stealth Bombers also can; when we were short on bomber numbers, I would fit a stealth bomber with a probe launcher that joined in on bomb runs.
Pricey: Command Ships. If you're going to be leading a fleet from a command ship, it's incredibly useful to have a probe launcher on it. Just use an expanded probe launcher with Sisters probes, don't use scan rigs.
The “I have a full virtue set and want to protect my pod”: Tech III cruisers. Interdiction nullified, covert reconfiguration, with the emergent locus analyzer fit. The ELA prevents the main bonus some tech three cruisers want, i.e. Loki web range, Proteus scram/disrupt range, etc, but that's okay - you're using this as a dedicated platform. The ELA provides a 10% scan strength bonus per level of Electronic Subsystem skill, so combine with two Medium Gravity Capacitor Upgrade I (or even II since you're splurging anyway) and you're equivalent to a Covert Ops ship. Top with Sisters probe launcher and probes to finish it off.
The easiest way to deploy probes is to drop them all in the same area and move from there. It's faster and easier than dropping a few, warping, and dropping the rest.
I made this animated image to show the different setups depending on how many probes you have out. I prefer to use either a five or seven probe layout, as the center probe acts as a target for where you want to scan. The important part is the shape, the exact orientation of that shape doesn't matter.
Ctrl+A selects all your probes with the scan window open, allowing you to select all of them at once to set their range.
Shift – The shift button allows you to move and adjust all your probes at the same time. Holding shift while moving one of the probe arrows will keep their shape and move all the probes in that direction. You can also use shift to change the probe scan range by shift dragging the circle, which looks like a force-field, around the probes. Moving this towards the probes reduces scan range, while away will increase scan range.
Alt – By holding down the alt key while clicking and dragging an arrow on one of the probes, you are able to move the probes away from or towards the point at which they would intersect. This is useful after adjusting the scan range to bring all the probes into proper formation around your designated area.
Right-click – If by chance you forgot to hold down alt or shift before dragging a probe into the middle of nowhere, you can right-click to reset that probe to it's previous position as long as you are still left-clicking. If you let go of the left-click button, the probe's new location is saved as it's default and right-click will not return it.
The Map - After clicking "view map" you should see a view of the solar system map. If you do not see this and instead see a map of the galaxy, change your map view to solar system instead. By default, you will be centered on "you are here", you may change that by double clicking on either a celestial, or one of your probes. The camera will then center on that. This map is where you will position your probes on the target you are attempting to find.
Great, now your probes are setup in the correct formation. You hit analyze and... you see a lot of anomalies and other useless things. What you want to do is create a filter for your results. Under scan results there are a few lines; left click, create new filter as shown here.
There are a large number of options, including the ability to see only certain ship types in your results. Right clicking on “Ships” will allow you to select all ships. Once saved you will be able to use the drop down menu to select your previously created “ships” filter. Note that all results are listed, but the ones you don't want are filtered out, so you can swap between filters without needing to re-scan.
Hopefully, I've given you the basics to probing. The next installment will be a more in-depth look at combat probing itself.