Howto: Know if someone tries to scan you down

So you’re in low/nullsec and just a little paranoid? Good, paranoia is healthy in EVE in general. I recently had to run a few missions in lowsec, and it can be perfectly safe there in deadspace until someone scans you down and warps into your mission space. Mission runners usually know that feeling from highsec Ninja Salvagers that suddenly turn up out of thin air. In lowsec the motivation is a bit different though, so you want to know what’s going on – especially since scanning has grown a lot more popular lately.

The basics

First off, before jumping into the target lowsec system, check for a gate camp by opening your map (F10) then, in the world map control panel, go to “Star Map > Color Stars by > Statistics > Ships destroyed in the last hour”. Systems with ship kills will light up, and hovering over them with your cursor tells you how many ships were destroyed. One or two kills do not necessarily have to mean anything bad, so check for pod kills as well. Those invariably mean something is afoot. It may just be consensual PvP, but you are paranoid, remember?

No ship kills nor pod killings means it is pretty safe. You just need to be able to warp into the system and off into your deadspace area. If you do not want to leave anything to chance or want to confirm the target gate is clear, the next step is to scout out the system. Just use a shuttle, it is fast enough to avoid most trouble and does not make too big a dent in your wallet if you do get caught.

Spotting scanners

To detect someone scanning you, you need to know what tools they are using. With the new scanning system, you have to fit an Expanded Probe Launcher I, and use some Combat Scanner Probe I or Sisters Combat Scanner Probe I probes. Scanning down a ship is pretty much the same procedure as with scanning down a complex: you launch some probes, scan at the maximum range, and when you get a hit you incrementally reduce the scanning range of your probes until you get a 100% hit. To get a 100% hit on a ship, you usually need to go down to at least 2 AU scanning range depending on ship size. Ships like Exhumers or Freighters are very easy to scan down.

And that is the key: you know that to find your exact location, the pilot has to place some probes within at least 2 AU of your ship. From then on, it gets pretty easy: open the system scanner, set it to 360 degrees and 4 AU (598392000 km), untick the “Use Overview Settings” box and scan. If you see one or more combat scanner probes listed, it is time to think about leaving for a while or at least warp to the other side of the system to get the pilot off your trail. It takes a while to adjust the position of the probes from 4 AU until you get a 100% hit, so that should leave you enough time.

Note: If you see Core Scanner Probe I or Sisters Core Scanner Probe I in the list, do not panic. You cannot scan down ships with those, only complexes and the like. You are safe.

To sum up, the idea is to have the system scanner open, and periodically check for probes. Most of the time I have the system scanner set to the maximum scan range, and check if there are any probes in the system at all (no need to worry if no one is using combat probes). If there are, I reduce the range to 4 AU and wait to see if the probes appear at that range. It can but must not mean that someone is trying to find you, so just keep and eye on the scanner until they get closer and no doubt is possible anymore.

The good news is that there is NO OTHER way to find a ship in deadspace. Someone who scans you down can be in a cloaked ship, but a cloaked ship cannot find you without probing you down – just to eliminate some sticky rumours. Keep an eye open for probes and you’re almost as safe in lowsec than in highsec. Almost 🙂

[EDIT 20.08.09]: Make sure you also read Bel Amar’s comment below, he wrote about a technique some scanners use to try and hide their probing from their targets. It is good to know this technique exists, the big unknown is how many pilots have mastered it.

Understanding the mechanics

Scanning is a whole profession, so I can only encourage you to try it out for yourselves. It is not as profitable as mission running, but can be a lot of fun. There are a lot of tutorials and guides out there to learn how to use probes, and to do it yourself will give you an even better understanding of them. Even if the basics I told you here are quite enough to get by.

There is one additional tidbit that can be useful: To get a 100% hit on any object, you need at least 4 probes. So if you have your system scanner set to 4 AU and only have a single probe listed, you do not need to worry yet. The other pilot may be trying to scan something else down and one of his probes is in your area.

Fast range calculations

Google is your friend: you can convert almost any unit with the search engine. For example, to convert AU to kilometres to paste into the system scanner, search for “2 au in km“. Just change the “2” to whatever you need.

Additional reading on probing


Yay, even with a separate header this time o/ I found a pretty cool video when I was searching for info on smartbombs – someone tried to replicate the effect of a Doomsday with smartbombs, the result was quite disco 🙂

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