A reader commented recently:
Also, I have not seen a single post / guide about proper use and tips & tricks for mobile depot usage. Maybe that would be something for you to write down your thoughts about if you find the time and think this is an interesting topic.
I do think this is an interesting topic, but I am still learning how to use them. In any case I can share what I do.
First, some facts about mobile depots:
1. They are pretty easy to scan down – similar to a battleship or industrial ship. An average combat prober can get a 100% signal at a probe range of 2AU’s.
2. They have a 60 second activation timer before you can use the fitting service. There is no timer on deactivating. You can scoop it up immediately at any time.
3. They show up on D-scan.
4. A 500dps combat ship can put them in “reinforced” mode in about 10 seconds. Once reinforced, the fitting service can no longer be used.
5. Once reinforced, they have a 2-day invulnerability timer. After that (if it has not been scooped and re-deployed by the owner), it can be destroyed and looted.
6. They can be cargo scanned.
7. They count as a “Plank” container. This means they cannot be placed in a cargo container while in storage – and when deployed, a cargo container cannot be placed in them. It also means they cannot be jettisoned.
8. Attacking a mobile depot generates a suspect flag. No CONCORD action – even in highsec. No notification is sent to the owner when the depot is attacked.
9. The person who deployed the depot is the only one who can use it. The pilot who deployed it is shown when someone is on grid with the depot and clicks “show info”.
Frankly, I think the invulnerability timer is overpowered. It is virtually impossible to destroy and loot the mobile depot of an even semi-attentive owner. All the owner has to do is warp to the depot, scoop it, scoop any dropped cargo and warp away. This can be done in under 30 seconds. I suppose in nullsec or j-space you could put a large warp disruption bubble around it, but you would still have to camp it for 48 hours straight. So, if you want to use it to store stuff, it is pretty safe to do so.
The biggest vulnerability is when you are using it for fitting and are thus distracted from what is going on around you. Also managing inventory and the fitting screen tends to be a bit more complicated than it is in a station. Since I tend to move around a lot, someone camping (cloaked or otherwise) my depot for even an hour would seriously disrupt my gameplay.
So this is what I usually do: I travel with a medium secure storage container as well as a mobile depot. I was using the container anyway to help with keeping my inventory sorted. I try to get a spot that is more than 14AU’s from any celestial object for my mobile depot. If it is a system where I have seen lowsec incursions before, then I use this trick. If I can’t, then I try to deploy it somewhat close to a POS with lots of structures. When scanning for a mobile depot, it counts as a structure until you get to 25% signal strength. When you see a structure out in the middle of nowhere, you know it is a depot (or another deployable). When it is in the midst of a bunch of other structures it takes a bit more effort. I also set a bookmark about 10AU’s away (if possible) from my mobile depot bookmark. This is where I will put my secure storage container.
Once my bookmarks are set, I make sure no one has combat probes out. If they do, I will wait (or move on). Then I warp to my depot bookmark. I launch the depot (activating the 60 second timer). Then I warp to my storage bookmark. I can still see my depot on d-scan so I will know if someone starts probing for it. I launch my secure storage container. I transfer from my storage container the modules/ammo that I want to refit with. Everything else goes into the container. After transferring the inventory, I anchor the container (optional) and warp to my depot bookmark. I use the fitting service. Since my inventory pretty much only has the modules I want, it goes quickly. Once fitted, I scoop the depot and warp to a third location. From there, I warp to whatever site I wanted to do. To change fits back, I reverse the process.
Doing this, I am moving most of the time and am difficult to probe. I also leave nothing behind that can be scanned and my loot is safe in a secure container that no one but me can find. I also have my old fit and my depot with me. If necessary, I can refit somewhere else. I don’t have to use my previous depot spot. In fact, if I am doing a combat site I can even refit in one of the rooms behind the acceleration gate.
A couple of additional items: You can’t use saved ship fittings with a mobile depot. You get an error message saying saved fits can only be used in a station. Also, loading ammo still takes the normal amount of time. It is not instant like it is in a station. Finally, transferring a mobile depot from one character to another in space is pretty complicated. Since you can’t jettison or store a depot in a can, you pretty much have to have 2 characters that can fly the same ship. Foo describes the process here.