Drones/Power/Frames

How Do You Use What You Need?

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Sat, Feb 27, 2021 at 10:11 AM

Ignatz,

In my mind, the number of drones used would entirely depend upon the cruise. More massive loads might require more thruster drones than a Tottenberg would normally carry, so yes, either a rental service would be used, or, if the cruise is originating from a system that has a large service facility owned by the shipping company itself, they'd use their own. There's no reason to assume the ship(s) would be limited to using only what they carry.

If drones are being rented, the ship might prefer to keep its own in reserve, in case a rented drone craps-out in mid flight. Emergency replacements are vital. Perhaps it's the owner of the cargo box who provides the drones? More likely, all of these scenarios and more exist, depending upon the deals struck by the executives. All the drones would have magnetic locks/pads on the bottom, so they can be deployed anywhere along the boxes. There are different cargo boxes all over space, and some might be poorly loaded, so that their centers of mass aren't quite true. Extra thruster drones, that are easily positioned, would be placed to (hopefully) compensate for this.

Sensor drones would be placed on all six sides of box-shaped containers. I can foresee other shapes, including very large pieces of equipment that are shipped more-or-less whole; these would have anchoring frames built around them with inserts for the locking pin, and power conduits for the drones. The frames would then be disassembled on the other side of the cruise, after delivery of these large pieces.

I don't see any regular need for advance scout drones. These ships never fly to unexplored star systems, and all solar objects of size at the destination systems will have been mapped and charted long in advance. I suppose it would be possible to use the drones in an untethered, remote sort of way, but it would be an improvised use for a strange one-off situation.

Gunnery drones wouldn't need to be that large, necessarily. All legal civilian gunnery operations are in support of discrete defensive usage, not sustained combat. As a mandate, they can be used as self-protection in support of the only allowable operational choice for civvie vessels under attack in the Alliance: escape. They are meant to harass, delay, or confuse enemy vessels, not to destroy them. The fact that licensed gunners like Ejoq can use such under-powered weapons to cause severe damage is a testament to their training. Civilian energy weapons, including those mounted on drones, don't slice enemy vessels in half; they knock out incoming missiles, or, possibly, target key systems that can be damaged or put offline. In Cold Passage, for instance, Ejoq used a small forward gun to hit a cargo door on an enemy ship, where presumably it was more vulnerable. This caused secondary damage within that forced the ship to drop out of the fight. It wasn't destroyed, nor were there likely any casualties.

Weapon drones flying independently of the vessel would technically be fighter dronecraft, which are illegal in (most) civvie hands. Again, there might well be a few situations where a gunnery drone gets pressed into such service, but those would be extremely unusual circumstances, and something the drone was never designed for.

I think that drones would probably come in three general sizes, with the sensor drones the smallest, the gunnery drones the next largest, and the thruster drones the biggest of all, to accommodate their fuel tanks.

Regarding when it would be more practical to fly another ship as escort, instead of deploying lots of gunnery drones on a box, it would depend upon which was cheaper. If a high-value box was set to roll through a star system with known pirate activity, it might make more financial sense to have an escort or two, since they'd otherwise have to load up on rented gunnery drones. That cuts into the profits. If it's less expensive to hire a mercenary escort vessel -- some of which are sporting military or paramilitary weapon systems, and have greater legal latitude to act -- then they'd probably do it. I mean, why not? The services of such vessels aren't cheap, but the circumstances would dictate the shipper's choice in this matter.

Battery systems in the future are far more capacious than anything we can even dream of right now. I can see some types of Directed Energy Weapon drones running solely off of batteries; again, they aren't designed for deep combat, or sustained space warfare. A shot here, a shot there. Battery and capacitor systems could handle that much, especially if they're coupled with tiny power generation systems that provide a trickle-charge. Zap-zap; recharge for a few hours; zap-zap.

The design of cargo containers are vitally important to how the Tottenberg line functions. Though the very concept of the ship makes it more adaptable in practical use than, say, a box hauler, it cannot move containers or other objects that aren't designed, or at least retrofitted, to be moved by it. The locking pin is of central importance, of course, but the way the vessel is constructed dictates how it's meant to be used, and what it's meant to be hauling.

-David