May 24, 2012

Questions From A Newbie: "How does the directional scanner work?"

Update (2018-05-31): The interface for the dscan has changed since this post, but its functions are otherwise the same. One tip though: hold "V" and click on anything in space to instantly rotate your camera to scan in its direction. It makes this whole business far easier.
Accidentally The Whole Frigate is starting a new initiative: "Questions From A Newbie". How it works: I receive questions from newbies, and if they are good enough and deserve a long-form answer that would be a pain to repeat over and over to new people, I make a post about it. Even you can send in questions! Get to it!

So, let's get started. The first question comes from Matthius Carole of Rifterlings.

The Directional Scanner

The D-scan Button
The directional scanner (henceforth "dscan", pronounced "dee-scan") is one of the most useful tools in your ship's arsenal. No, it's not a weapon, it doesn't do damage, and only provides limited information -- but invaluable information.

The dscan provides the answer to the question "what ships/things are around?" Note that I did not mention "people". It provides information on any ships (piloted or unpiloted), wrecks, stationary structures, celestial objects, etc.

So, how does it work?

If you push the scan button (as illustrated above), you get a window that looks something like this:

The simplest way to use it is to do a full scan around yourself, to see what is nearby. For this, drag the angle slider to 360 degrees, and stick "999999999" into the range. That will get set to 2,147,483,647 km, the maximum distance for dscan, which comes out to a little over 14 AU away. Hit the scan button and see what you get.

Those are all ships and other objects within 14 AU of you. Exciting, eh? But... how do you tell who's in what ship? Well, you don't, unless the person in that ship is a baddie.

Pro tip: whenever you get told to change your ship's name, this is why. Look at the image above. You can't tell who is flying the "XXL Invincible" Machariel, or the "Jolly Roger" Maelstrom. However, you can very easily tell who is flying the Cyclone: ross2by4. That's because his ship's name is still the default "ross2by4's Cyclone". So, pro tip? Change your ship's name.

Okay, but... how is that "directional" at all?

You can narrow the angle. And, in fact, you should! Suppose you're sitting next to a planet that has 10 asteroid belts, and there is some guy who is ratting in one of them. You want to kill him (you pirate, you), but   you will almost certainly miss him if you pick through the belts one by one. So, what do you do? Use your dscan!

Neat, so it scans for that particular angle in front of my ship, right?

No! It scans that particular angle in the direction your camera is pointing. Allow me to illustrate. The angles you can set, in degrees, are 360, 180, 90, 60, 30, 15, and 5. Here is an image of approximately what area of the sky they each cover:

Click for more readable full size
This wasn't calculated with a lot of trigonometry or effort on my part. Rather, this is a ballpark of what the areas are, which I picture in my mind's eye whenever I scan. You need to scan a lot to evolve your own way of eyeballing the angle you're scanning, as there is no visual indication.

Note that the scan not is centered in the direction my ship is heading, but rather in the direction the camera is pointing. If you want to get an exact "place" that the center of the dscan is (useful for the 5 and 15 degree scans), simply click on your ship and a small white square will appear.

So, what angle and distance should I use?

Depends on how good you are with the scan, and what you're trying to use it for. When you are in hunting mode, you should be prepared to hotswap dscan settings in order to get the best info. My most commonly used scan angles and directions, plus their purposes, are:

  • 360 degree, maximum range: Plain readout of possible things of interest nearby.
  • 360 degree, 10,000,000 km: "short scan" able to detect if anyone of interest is about to drop on top of me, or is on the acceleration gate of my complex.
  • 60, 30, or 15 degree, maximum range: "Spotlight" search through individual celestials to narrow down where something might be. This is what is going on when you hear "Target is somewhere near Planet V" in fleet.
  • 5 degree, maximum range: Very narrow scan to try to distinguish between very close celestials, without warping to either of them.
  • 90 degree, 180 degree, maximum range: broad scan to use when baffled by a target I simply cannot scan down, to check whether he is at a safe spot.
Varying the distance can be very helpful at short ranges. It can give you clearer information about what's going on, especially if you're trying to scout out a gate without being on the field. However, it's fairly advanced and I'm not going to cover that here.

To be a great scout, learn to use the dscan to quickly inform your fleet of everything going on.

Any other tips or tricks?

Why yes, I'm glad you asked.
  • You can use your current overview tab to filter what gets shown on dscan. Use it to filter useless results (POSes, cargo containers, etc) out of the long list.
  • Rats, faction navy, CONCORD, and other non-capsuleer ships do not show up. Their wrecks do. Use this to detect if someone is ratting.
  • The scan can be confusing if you see someone while they're just warping by. Repeat scans to confirm results.
  • Combine with the system scanner and various objects on your overview, to be able to pinpoint your target's location quickly.
  • Shift-Alt-X toggles the display of icons for moons on your screen. Have it on, so you can see if your target is just sitting safely at a POS -- your cue to leave them alone.
  • Corollary: If you have POSes and Force Fields on your overview, you can easily spot offline POSes this way... possibly yielding sweet loot.
  • This is not just a PvP tool. Dscan can spot incoming suicide gankers, scanner probes, recently decloaked AFK cloakers, etc. Use it.

And, above all...

Use of the dscan is an acquired skill. That is "skill" as in "piloting ability", not "skill points". It is, in fact, not affected by any "skills" at all. You simply need to practice, practice, practice to get it down to the point where you can quickly tally everything that is nearby and where it is.


  1. There is one way to get a partial visual on your d-scan. Press F11 to bring up the Map Browser. On the Solar System map you will see a visual representation of your current ship facing (grey) and your d-scan facing and angle (green.) The d-scan visual will move as your view moves.

  2. I don't encourage use of that since it is 2D only, and does not really help at nailing things that aren't on the same horizontal plane as you.

    1. You are right it is 2d only but I Will say this...When I roam solo I always have that map up as it helps me see the clusters of celestials so that I can quickly move from one to another in the hopes of catching someone.

      Not 100% full proof because the Up/Down axis could be more than 14k but it is a good starting point for quickly covering a system and setting up safes before you do a more through scan.

  3. Small correction: it shows unpiloted ships as well as piloted ones. This is important in particular in wormholes, but also when scouting in a system and you find 14 ships at a POS - it's just as possible that those 14 are a gang ready to jump you as they are a bunch of unpiloted ships just hanging out in the shields because someone's too lazy to put up a new SMA or something.

  4. d-scan also works from the solar system map if the view is centered around your current location. I think it's easier to d-scan this way, as it helps to visualize the system better.

  5. Thanks for the correction, Alasseo! The original draft mentioned that, but it got lost somewhere in editing.