[Suggestion] - The Universal Cartographic Data drone (UCDD)

So I was thinking about what is keeping me from going full on deep exploring, the current furthest I have been is to Sag A* at which point I thought I had better make my way back to cash in the credits and get my name on a few ELW I had found, and I realised that if I had a way to send data back, I would no doubt spend much, much more time out in the black, I was listening to an audio book where they use a system of drones to send battle communications across a star system (Frontiers series by Ryk Brown, pretty good series if you like military scifi), and it struck me that with a little "tinkering" a similar system could be used in Elite to help out commanders in the black, so I present to you.

The Universal Cartographic Data Drone. or UCDD for short
The Idea behind the UCDD is to send your data back to universal cartographics ASAP, all it will do is FSD, Scoop, FSD rinse and repeat until it gets to a station. No scanning of planets, stars or anything else.

What it is
the UCDD is a device used by explorers deep in the black to send data about their discoveries back to universal cartographic, without having to return, thus ensuring that commanders get credits, first discoveries and returns with data about any new POI (wrecks, alien sites, ring compositions etc) within the game that other commanders my be interested in. This will allow commanders to spend extended time in the deep exploring without having to run the entire galaxy should they find something especially interesting. It also gives them a level of protection from loosing all the data they have collected in the event of them crashing into a bad cluster of stars and blowing up before they can get out of there.

How it works
The Universal Cartographic Data Drone (UCDD) travels to the closest known outpost and delivers data and first discoveries then deposit credits into your account, as you are not physically returning to a station, you do not get any reputation gains with that station, It then enters a cooldown phase before making it's way back to you the via same route it took to the station and then from its original departure point, it then starts to trace your route back to you, when it gets back to you it enters another cooldown phase before it can be used again.


Restrictions
  • The UCDD is only available to Pioneer or above ranked explorers.
  • Commanders must be minimum 10k light years away from nearest known station for it become active (it will not acknowledge undiscovered stations or outposts if there are any)
  • Travel time - variable depending on engineered level.
  • The UCDD is only active and travailing when you are logged in, no firing it off, then collecting it the following evening.
  • You may only have one active at any time.
  • Same travel speed in both directions
  • Has a limit to amount of data it contains, can be engineered for more though (more on this below)
  • A base Jump range that increased through engineering (more on this below)
  • Has cooldown between time before returning or being sent out again
  • Uses a small or medium hardpoint
  • Lightweight 1 ton
  • If you die before it gets to a station, the data in your ship and the UCDD is lost.


Engineering

Two options
"Fast Travel" decreased travel time, but holds less data.
Redesign based on MK_Regular's post
- The UCDD calculates the travel time from point of origin to destination using the most direct route, Each engineering rank decreases this time.

Grade 1 - Faster FSD spin up time.
Grade 2 - can use any more direct route including none scoopable stars (will switch to scoopable stars when running low on fuel)
Grade 3 - can use FSD Booster materials at its discretion that you provided*
Grade 4 - Use neutron stars boosts you have been too*
Grade 5 - Use any neutron star boosts within a 1 jump radius of its current location to and from your position*
*Each full grade grants a +5 LY jump range


"Superior Storage" - More data (scales with engineered Level)*
Redesign based on MK_Regular's post
- The UCDD now calculates the travel time from point of origin to destination using the most direct route, Each engineering rank increases data capacity, however travel time will not decreased.

however it will only travel via scoopable stars at its base Jump range
*Each full grade grants a +5 LY jump range



would this be something that commanders in the black would use, would it tempt more people to go exploring ? I am not sure. I know I would make very good use of it though.
 
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This is an interesting idea. This could help give explorers some kind of economic safety net for all of their exploration data while still maintaining some balancing factors (data limit, 'active in-game only' travel time, detroyed on ship destruction, etc...). However, there may be a few things worth considering/clairifying:
  • Optional Internal vs. Hardpoint vs. Utility Mount. As it stands right now, there is no reason to take weapons exploring. For Utility Mounts, the only thing even remotely worth taking other than heat sinks are shield boosters to give yourself a bit of extra padding for that high-G landing. Any new exploration tools that use either of these slots would be complete no-brainers, and throw away the entire concept of outfitting trade-offs. However if something like this was an optional internal module, many explorers would have a hard time justifying leaving something else behind (Two of the most popular exploration ships, the AspX and DBX have 7 and 6 optional internal slots, respectively). If something like this were to be introduced, the earliest I could see it being added is with the Beyond Q4 update as a variant of the new exploration drones. We will have to wait and see what FDev does with the new exploration tools that they will be releasing later this year.
  • One-time use vs. reusable drones. This would likely end up being entirely dependent on what FDev decides is 'balanced'. If the data drones are a variant of the exploration drones, it would make no sense for data drones to be one-time use while scan drones are reusable, or vice-versa. In the event that the drones are one-time use, they would probably be resupplied through materail synthesis (Yay 'quality' SRV 'gameplay').
  • Route plotting. This one just opens a hole new can of worms. You said that the drone would have a maximum jump range, meaning that it cannot jump to a star outside of it's jump range. What happens if the player is in a star cluster that exceeds the drone's jump range? Does the drone just magically teleport to the nearest star, self-destruct, or return to your ship? Also, if the drone is using something like the galmap's route plotting, it would have a maximum range of 20kly. What would happen if I am at beagle point and I decide to send a drone? Colonia is over 46kly away, so again, does the drone just magically teleport, self destruct or return to ship?
Overall this is an interesting idea, and I quite like the concept. Maybe someone at FDev will see this and get the ball rolling....
 
Nice idea, I also have an idea for this topic but I will post it somewhere else to not interfere with yours.

I would change a few details from your desing:

1. The drone is controlled by an utility module (not a hard point) that you need to install and it works like a heatsink, so you have ammos. But you only have one and it is expendable. When you use it, it travels back to the last station where you docked and it will follow back your route. The time it takes it's the same that it is required to transfer a ship. When it reaches the station all data are stored in a safe so you don't get any credits yet. The drone is then destroyed/recycled so it will not travel back to you, you simply lose it. You can farm another drone, after using the first one, using basic materials that can be found on planets (common and rare).

2. You can only sell the data when you dock again to that station. So you need to travel to it (Colonia or Bubble, it depends what is the last place where you docked) so you can't chose the faction that will get benefit from it (like it or not).

3. If your ship is destroyed before that the drone reaches the dock, the drone and the data are lost. This is to avoid that people may decide to self-destruct the ship to avoid the trip back.

4. If your ship is destroyed after that the drone has reached the station the data are saved and stored. At this point you respawn at the very same station and you can sell the data as described at point 2.

5. Nice to have: when you launch the drone you need to perform a mini-game that requires some personal ability, but not a tough one, just to have some interaction. A kind of launch sequence where you need to match a specific vector/thrust. If the mini-game fails (which sould be rare) the data is still stored in your ship computer but you lose the drone.
 
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drones are reusable, or vice-versa. In the event that the drones are one-time use, they would probably be resupplied through materail synthesis (Yay 'quality' SRV 'gameplay').
[*]Route plotting. This one just opens a hole new can of worms. You said that the drone would have a maximum jump range, meaning that it cannot jump to a star outside of it's jump range. What happens if the player is in a star cluster that exceeds the drone's jump range? Does the drone just magically teleport to the nearest star, self-destruct, or return to your ship? Also, if the drone is using something like the galmap's route plotting, it would have a maximum range of 20kly. What would happen if I am at beagle point and I decide to send a drone? Colonia is over 46kly away, so again, does the drone just magically teleport, self destruct or return to ship?
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Yeah, I agree this one is quite irksome. I suppose since the drone has access to the data you collected it could take a more direct route using the data you have collected, or it could travel 20k have a small cooldown period replot and carry on.
as for the maximum jump range, the furthest star jump range to a star that I know of is the one to Beagle, (I could and probably am wrong) The engineering of the module would take the UCDD's max jump range so that it could never get stuck due to jump range limitations.

All a work in progress I suppose.
 
Yeah, I agree this one is quite irksome. I suppose since the drone has access to the data you collected it could take a more direct route using the data you have collected, or it could travel 20k have a small cooldown period replot and carry on.
as for the maximum jump range, the furthest star jump range to a star that I know of is the one to Beagle, (I could and probably am wrong) The engineering of the module would take the UCDD's max jump range so that it could never get stuck due to jump range limitations.

All a work in progress I suppose.
Well, if the drone cannot get stuck, why use the galaxy map to plot a route? Why not just find the distance to the nearest known station and calculate the amount of time the drone would take to get there? You would get a timer that only counts down while you are logged on, and if you die before the time expires, all of the data is lost. This would save quite a bit of development time for the drone to be added to the game.
 
Well, if the drone cannot get stuck, why use the galaxy map to plot a route? Why not just find the distance to the nearest known station and calculate the amount of time the drone would take to get there? You would get a timer that only counts down while you are logged on, and if you die before the time expires, all of the data is lost. This would save quite a bit of development time for the drone to be added to the game.
I like this, I hope you don't mind but I have changed the suggested design to what you have explained, as it is a lot more elegant and sensible, credit given obviously o7
 
Very good ideas, guys. I added that to my list - https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php/432554-QOL-Comprehensive-Suggestion-List.

The UCDD is a very good solution also for such exploration data canister we find sometime in the deep: they can be lost UCDD, of died cmdrs.

I think that, beside all your considerations, there should be a percentage fee on profits, so you will use it only if you really want to be able to tag some special areas. And a better universal cartographic browser window should enable us to quickly and reliably find the systems we want to send - by date, by sector, by type, etc...
 
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