MTU Hunting 101


(i) About this Guide

This guide will teach you how to find, scan-down, and subsequently destroy abandoned Mobile Tractor Units (MTUs) in EVE Online. We will be using the latest version of the Directional and Probe Scanners (Citadel release, May 2016) for this task. The areas of space we will be focusing-on are busy mission-running systems in highsec, however the lessons learned here could easily be applied to any area of space.

You should note that hunting MTUs doesn’t come without it’s risks (as with any activity in EVE). As long as you remember the golden rule* you should be fine, however.

*Never fly what you can’t afford to lose!

Update (04/05/2017): Due to changes to the scanners and UI in EVE Online, some parts of this guide may be outdated.

Update (17/09/2020): I’m currently in the process of updating this guide, send me a mail in-game if you have any questions.

(ii) What is an MTU?

A Mobile Tractor Unit is a large metal box with a tractor beam on it. A player can deploy this box into space from the cargohold of their ship, it will then suck-up nearby shipwrecks and consume any loot that may be inside. When you destroy an MTU, it can drop some of the loot it may have sucked-up since it was deployed.

Mobile Tractor Unit

This is what an MTU looks like up close.

MTUs are particularly popular with players who run missions. The vast majority of abandoned MTUs you will find in highsec were deployed by mission runners who, for some reason, never returned for them.

You will not face the wrath of CONCORD for shooting an MTU in highsec, however, you will gain Suspect status which will mean any player can shoot you without CONCORD intervention for the next 15 minutes.

To clarify some highsec mechanics:
You will not be killed by CONCORD for shooting an MTU.
You will become suspect (yellow blinky/flashy) for shooting an MTU.
You will not have a kill right against you for popping someone’s MTU.
You will not lose security status for popping someone’s MTU.
You will also not become suspect, or face any other kind of penalties for scooping abandoned drones.


Before you can head-out on an MTU hunt, you’re going to need some skills and equipment.

(i) Skills

You will need the following skills trained in order to scan down MTUs quickly and effectively:

– Astrometric Acquisition
– Astrometric Pinpointing
– Astrometric Rangefinding
– Astrometrics (2)
– Science (3)

You will need Astrometrics at level 2 and Science at level 3 to fit an Expanded Probe Launcher I. The higher you train the Astrometric skills, the easier it will be to scan down MTUs. At the time of writing this, I have Astrometrics at 5 and the rest at 4. The Science skill doesn’t affect how well you can scan, it is only a requirement for fitting the launcher, so feel free to leave it at level 3.

You will also need some combat skills in order to shoot the MTU and pop it. You can use any weapon system you like for this, but just remember that MTUs can take quite a while to pop, so the more DPS you can bring, the better.

(ii) Ships & Modules

You are going to need the following items to scan down MTUs:

– A ship capable of fitting a probe launcher (high CPU requirement)
– An Expanded Probe Launcher I, or alternatively:
—- Expanded Probe Launcher II (5% bonus to scan probe strength)
—- Sisters Expanded Probe Launcher (10% bonus to scan probe strength)
– 8x Combat Scanner Probe I, or alternatively:
—- 8x Sisters Combat Scanner Probe (+2 sensor strength)

You can choose any ship that is capable of fitting a probe launcher; I used to use a Raptor with nothing else fitted except for a Co-Processor II (to increase the ship’s CPU) and an Expanded Probe Launcher I. I would carry my ship’s guns and other mods in the cargohold and refit the ship at a nearby station, after I had scanned an MTU down and bookmarked it’s location. This solution isn’t ideal, but at least it’s doable.

If ISK and skill training are of no concern to you, then I would recommend you use a T3 Destroyer (Tactical Destroyer) as they have a bonus that allows them to easily fit probe launchers. This allows you to fit a probe launcher and enough guns to melt any MTU quickly, without the need for refitting the ship. A good solution for Alpha players would be a Sunesis or Gnosis.

The alternative probe launchers (with scan probe strength bonuses) listed above will help a lot with scanning down MTUs, but using faction launchers can result in some rather expensive fittings. A good compromise is to use an Expanded Probe Launcher I (or II) along with Sisters Combat Scanner Probes, to provide some bonuses while keeping the cost relatively low.


Once you have a ship fitted with the necessary scanning equipment, it is time to head out and begin your first hunt.

(i) Choosing a System

You will find MTUs all over highsec, they’re everywhere, from mission pockets, to asteroid belts, even at stargates. You are most likely, however, to find them in systems where level 4 missions are being run.

Activities >The Agency

Click on the Neocom Menu button in the topmost left of your screen, select Activities, and click on The Agency.

The Agency > Agents & Missions

Now select Agents & Missions.

Agents & Missions > Agent Finder

Now select Agent Finder.

Agent Finder

In the drop-down menus to the left, select the following:
Agent Type: Security
Agent Level: Level 4
Location: Any Distance
Security Status: High Sec
Faction: Any Faction

Underneath the drop-down menus, select the following:
Ignore standings requirement: Tick
Locator Agent: Tick

You can now see some level 4 mission agents in the window, right-click on one of them and select Set Destination. Head there.

(ii) D-Scan

Now that you’ve reached a system with a level 4 mission agent, it’s time to begin scanning.

Directional Scan

Once you’ve reached the system, open D-Scan by clicking on the Scanners button, and selecting Directional Scan to the right.

D-Scan docked in Solar System Map

Select the square button next to the X in the D-Scan window to undock it from the Solar System Map.

D-Scan and Solar System Map

You may now resize and move your D-Scan window and the Solar System Map to more suitable locations.

Directional Scanner

In the D-Scan window, ensure that the Range slider is all the way to the right, until it displays the maximum range, which is 14.3 AU. Also ensure the Angle slider is all the way to the right, so it is at 360 degrees. The columns underneath the Scan Results title should automatically show you what, if anything, is nearby.

Mobile Tractor Units on D-Scan

For future reference, this is what MTUs look like on D-Scan. Pay attention to the Type column in the above image, you should see 2 MTUs in the results.

Solar System Map button

If at any time you close the Solar System Map, you can re-open it from the D-Scan window by clicking on the Solar System Map button shown above.

If your D-Scan results show an MTU, then you know for certain there is one in that system. If your results don’t show an MTU, then you need to go to your Solar System Map.

Solar System Map

The green bubble surrounds your ship on the Solar System Map, it denotes the range of your ship’s Directional Scanner. If your D-Scan bubble encompasses the entire solar system and no MTU is coming up in the D-Scan results, then it is most likely that there is not an MTU in that system. If the solar system is quite large, and your bubble doesn’t cover most of it, then it’s time to move around a little.

Select destination

Right click on a celestial (planet, sun, etc) on the Solar System Map and warp to it. While you’re in warp, keep hitting the Scan button in your D-Scan window and watch the Scan Results carefully for any MTUs that may appear. Did one appear? Excellent. If not, keep warping to celestials and hitting the Scan button until you have covered as much of the system as possible.

If you still don’t see one on scan, try the surrounding systems, or move to another system using the Agent Finder and repeat the above steps until you do.

Tip: You can press the Enter key on your keyboard instead of clicking the Scan button if you prefer.


Now that you have found an MTU in a system, it is time to scan it down.

(i) Overview

To make it easier to keep track of MTUs on D-Scan, we are going to create an overview tab that will filter out a lot of the scan results we don’t need.

Tip: You can skip this process by installing the MTU Hunter Overview Profile. You can find the link to it in my bio in-game by opening the People & Places window and typing Pix Severus into the search box near the top. Right click my name and select “Show Info”, select the Bio tab, then click the MTU Hunter Overview link at the bottom. You can revert the changes to your overview at any time through the History tab in the Overview settings.

Overview Settings
Click on the horizontal lines next to the word “Overview” at the top of the Overview window, and select “Open Overview Settings”.

Overview Settings

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Select the “Tab Presets” tab, followed by the “Types” tab below it. Then press the “Deselect All” button at the bottom.

Overview Settings

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Open Celestial and select “Stargate” and “Warp gate”. Open Deployable and select “Mobile Tractor Unit” and “Mobile Micro Jump Unit”. Right-click on Entity, select “Select All”, then open Entity and deselect Sentry Gun, Large Collidable Structure and Billboard. Open NPC and select “Mission NPC” and “Pirate NPC”. Right-click on Ship and select “Select All”. Right-click on Station and select “Select All”.

Overview Settings
Click the Save button, type “mtu” (without quotes) into the box that opens, and press OK.

Overview Settings

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Click on the “Overview Tabs” tab. Choose the next empty box and type “MTU” (without quotes) into it. In the drop-down box next to the name you just wrote, select “mtu”.

You should now have a new tab at the top of your Overview window called “MTU”, click on this tab, and use it whenever you decide to go MTU hunting.

(ii) D-Scan

With your new Overview tab, it should now be a lot easier to spot MTUs on D-Scan. Click the Scan button in the D-Scan window. Is the MTU you had previously found now gone? If so, it has been collected by it’s owner (or destroyed by another MTU hunter) during the time it took you to setup your overview, and you’ll need to find another.

Once you have an MTU on D-Scan, you need to find out how far away it is from you.


Click on image for full size.

With your D-Scan range at maximum (14.3 AU), move the slider down to 10.0 AU. If the MTU is still in the Scan Results, move the slider down to 5.0 AU. Keep moving the slider down until the MTU disappears from the Scan Results entirely. Lets say the MTU disappeared from the Scan Results at 5.0 AU, but was still visible at 10.0 AU, that means our MTU is between 5.1 and 10.0 AU from us. We need to narrow this down further, however.

Tip: If the MTU still shows on D-Scan at very close range (within 1.0 AU) then it is likely at a nearby asteroid belt or Stargate, warp to them and check them out first.


Click on image for full size.

If the MTU disappeared when you moved the slider to 5.0 AU, keep the slider at 5.0 AU. Now we will use the small arrows to the right of the box with “5.0” in it. Click the “up” arrow 10 times until the range climbs to 6.0 AU, then hit the Scan button. Did the MTU appear in the results again? If not, click the “up” arrow another 10 times until you reach 7.0 AU, and hit Scan again. Keep doing this until the MTU appears in the results again.

Tip: You can also type the number into the range box instead of clicking the small arrows, to change the range.


Click on image for full size.

Lets say that the MTU reappeared in the Scan Results again at 8.0 AU, and we know it wasn’t visible at 7.0 AU, that means we now know our MTU is between 7.1 AU and 8.0 AU from us. Click the “down” arrow once and then click Scan. Repeat this until you find the point where the MTU disappears. We will say the MTU disappeared at 7.0 AU but was still visible at 7.1 AU, we now know our MTU is between 7.0 AU and 7.1 AU from us. That’s good enough.

Tip: Did you notice a ship consistently disappear and reappear with your MTU on D-Scan during all this? That means a player is actively using the MTU. Since we are looking for abandoned MTUs here, I would recommend finding another, lone MTU for the time-being.

At this point we could narrow down our MTU with D-Scan even further using the Angle slider, but we won’t do that this time around. I’ll save that for a more advanced guide.

(iii) Probe Scanner

With our D-Scan range set to the point where an MTU disappears from the Scan Results, it’s time to use the Probe Scanner.

Probe Scanner

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Open the Probe Scanner interface by clicking on the Scanners button, and selecting Probe Scanner to the left.

Tip: Make sure your Solar System Map is open. Our MTU is currently somewhere on the edge of your blue D-Scan bubble.

Probe Launcher
Make sure your probes are loaded into your Probe Launcher, if they are, there should be a black bar with the number 8 on your Probe Launcher icon, if not, right-click the icon and select Reload. If it doesn’t load any probes, then you either forgot to bring them, or didn’t bring 8 Combat Scanner Probes with you.

Probe Scanner
Click the Launch Pinpoint Formation button in the Probe Scanner window.

Probe Scanner

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A cube with some arrows sticking out of it will appear in the centre of the Solar System Map. Try moving it around by clicking and dragging the arrows. You can also move it around using any of the 6 sides on the surface of the cube itself. Notice how some of the bubbles around the cube become highlighted when you move your mouse pointer over them.

Probe Scanner
Now hover your mouse pointer over the edge of one of the bubbles coming from the cube. When one of the bubbles becomes highlighted (in a lighter/brighter blue) click and drag the bubble away from the cube, this will increase the bubble’s size, as well as the size of all the other small bubbles around the cube. Click and drag one of the bubbles towards the cube to decrease their size. This is how we change the range of our probe scan, the larger the bubbles, the less accurate the scan.

Tip: Take note of how the size decreases and increases in notches, akin to the Range slider in the D-Scan window.

Probe Scanner

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Move the cube to the centre of your darker blue D-Scan bubble (where your ship is) and increase the size of the cube’s bubbles (by clicking and dragging) so that they completely envelop your D-Scan bubble. Then click the Analyze button in the Probe Scanner window.

Scan Signatures
You should now see some little red dots and/or crosses on the Solar System Map, around your D-Scan bubble. Crosses indicate weaker/more distant signatures, dots signify stronger signatures. Hover your mouse pointer over them, you will see that some are labelled “Ship” and some are labelled “Structure”, we need to focus on the ones labelled “Structure” as that is the category MTUs fall under.

Tip: You won’t be able to tell for certain if a Structure signature is an MTU or not until you begin to close-in on the signature.

Update (12/12/2017): MTUs and other Deployable Structures can now be seperated from other structures, such as Player-Owned Starbases (POS) in the Probe Scanner window using the drop-down list. Thanks CCP!

Scan Signatures
Large clusters of Structure signatures usually indicate a Player Owned Structure (POS), which is not what we are looking for, however, sometimes an MTU can be close enough to a POS to mistake it for being a part of one.

Scan Signatures
Binary signatures, where one is a Structure and the other is a Ship close together, usually indicates an MTU or Mobile Depot in use by a player. Feel free to scan this down if you like, but we are looking for abandoned MTUs here for the moment.

Scan Signature
Solo Structure signatures stick-out like a sore thumb, and it is these signatures we will focus on first. You want to pay more attention to the solo Structure signatures that are close to the edge of your D-Scan bubble, as we already know our MTU is somewhere along that edge, thanks to our D-Scan work earlier.

Depending on the level of your scanning skills, scan bonuses from launchers and certain ships, etc, some Structure signatures will appear further out from the edge of your D-Scan bubble, and will move closer to the bubble’s edge as your scan becomes more accurate.

Scan Signature
Find a Structure signature that looks promising based on the above information. If you see no solo Structure signatures, then focus on some of the signature clusters close to the edge of the D-Scan bubble. Now move the cube so it is over the signature(s) you want to scan down, aim to get the signature as central inside the cube as possible. Click Analyze.

Probe Scanner

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You’ll see that some signatures have moved around a little (or a lot, if your scanning skills are quite low). Focus on any Structure signatures you see near the edge of the D-Scan bubble and move the cube over them. Now, move your mouse pointer to the edge of one of the cube’s bubbles to highlight it, then click and drag it towards the cube slightly, to decrease it’s size by one “notch”. Hit Analyze again.

Tip: If you have more than one Structure signature close to the edge of the D-Scan bubble, move the cube so it is as close to both of them as possible.

Probe Scanner

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The signatures will have moved around a little more. Move your cube over the Structure signature again, get it central, and then decrease the size of the bubbles (by clicking and dragging them) by another notch. Hit Analyze again.

By now, it should hopefully be getting clearer as to which signature is the MTU you are looking for. Keep repeating the above process of moving the cube over the Structure signature, and decreasing the size of the bubbles.

Probe Scanner

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During the scanning process, you’ll notice that signatures appear in the Probe Scanner window under Scan Results. Stronger signatures will have a longer coloured bar under the result. Weaker results show as a short red bar, stronger results show as a longer yellow bar, and the strongest results show as the longest green bars. When the bar under a signature is fully green (100%), you’ll be able to warp to it.

Once you’ve narrowed down the scan some more, you should see the name of the structure “Mobile Tractor Unit” appear under Scan Results in the Probe Scanner window.

Scan Signature
The red dot that you were previously scanning may have also changed colour (to yellow, or green) or even changed shape to the MTU symbol found on your overview.

If, instead, you see “Mobile Depot” or anything other than “Mobile Tractor Unit” appear in the results, then you’ve scanned down the wrong signature, and you should restart the probe scanning process.

Probe Scanner

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When you have fully scanned-down your MTU, you will see a full green bar under the word “Mobile Tractor Unit” under the Scan Results in the Probe Scanner window. You will also see a little arrow to the right instead of a signal strength percentage. Don’t click on that arrow just yet, though, and don’t leave system either.

Tip: Don’t forget to recall your probes at this point using the “Recover Active probes” button in the Probe Scanner window!


You have successfully scanned an MTU down, and now it is finally time to pop it.

(i) Bookmarks

You should add all MTUs you scan down to your Bookmarks (also called Locations) because you may have to make multiple trips to and from the MTU and a nearby station to stash any loot that may have dropped from it. These MTU bookmarks don’t disappear when the MTU has been popped, and can also serve as handy “safe spots” you can warp to if you need to avoid other players that are hunting you.

People & Places

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Open up your People & Places window by clicking the “magnifying glass with a head inside” icon on your Neocom. If it isn’t on your Neocom, it really should be, click the “E” symbol at the very top of your Neocom, find People & Places, then click and drag it to your Neocom. This is a window that I personally keep open 100% of the time when I’m playing EVE, as it is just so useful.

People & Places

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Select the Places tab and click the Create Folder button at the bottom of the window. In the box that appears, type the name of the system you are currently in, and make sure “Personal Locations” is selected under that, then click Submit. You should now see the folder with the name of your current system under Personal Locations in the People & Places window, click on that folder to open it.

Save Location

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Right-click on the 100% MTU Scan Result you had previously scanned-down, in your Probe Scanner window, and select “Save Location”*. In the box that appears, type “Mobile Tractor Unit” (without quotes) in the Label field, and select the folder you just made in the drop-down menu. Click Submit.

*Thanks to yellow parasol for this information

Your MTU location is now saved to your bookmarks, and you can now warp to that location at any time. The bookmark will also appear in your Solar System Map with a “Pin” icon.

You should get into the habit of creating bookmark folders like this for every system you hunt in, it will keep your bookmarks a lot more organised, and easy to use. Whenever you decide to hunt in a system you have previously hunted in, open the folder corresponding to the system’s name, and you’ll see your previous bookmarks, which can make good places to scan from, and great places to run to.

(ii) Attacking the MTU

Now that you’ve saved the MTU’s location to your bookmarks, you can dock up and refit some guns if you need to, you can even leave system now to fetch some guns and/or ammo. Once your ship is fitted for glorious combat, it’s time to shoot that MTU.

Right click on the MTU boomark in People & Places and select “Warp to Location Within 0 m”.

Mobile Tractor Unit

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Now that you’re at the MTU you scanned down, there are a few possibilities to take into account. The player who owns the MTU may have come back for it while you were fetching your guns, and there’s nothing there. Bad luck, time to scan down another. The MTU may be there, but might be surrounded by level 4 mission rats that will attack you as soon as you warp in. If you can’t deal with the damage those rats deal, then you’ll have no choice but to scan down another MTU. Most of the time, however, the scene will look like the example in the above image, a single, forgotten MTU sat out there in the void.

Show Info
At this point I like to right-click on the MTU and select Show Info. At the top of the info screen you will see the avatar of the MTU’s owner, click on it. You can now see his name, bio, corp history, and other useful information. Check local chat to see if the owner is in system, if he is, he may be getting ready to come back for it!

Target MTU

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Hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard, and left click the MTU (either in-space, or on your overview) to target it. Press F1, and fire.

Attack MTU

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Depending on how much DPS your ship can output, it can take quite a while to take an MTU down. A standard MTU has 50,000 hitpoints (10k shield, 10k armor, and 30k structure).

Mobile Tractor Unit Wreck

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“Pop”. The MTU has been destroyed, congratulations! If the MTU contained any loot, you will immediately get a killmail notification showing you what was inside, which loot survived the MTU’s explosion, how much ISK it was all worth, and who owned it. If the MTU didn’t contain any loot whatsoever, it will take around 30 seconds for the killmail notification to appear.


The deed has been done, but the job isn’t over yet.

(i) Grabbing the Loot

If the MTU you popped contained loot, you now have to get it out of there and into the safety of a station.

Open Cargo
Left click on the wreck of the MTU in space, and click the Open Cargo button. In the cargo window that appears, press the Loot All button at the bottom. The loot is now in your ship’s cargo hold.

Tip: The MTU’s wreck won’t appear on your overview because wrecks are turned off to make scanning down MTUs easier.

Jettison Cargo
Was there some loot left over in the MTU wreck? That means your ship didn’t have enough cargo space to fit it all. Right click on a piece of loot in your ship’s cargohold and select Jettison. Now left click on the cannister that just appeared and press the Open Cargo button. Move the remaining loot in the MTU wreck over to the can you just jettisoned. This will make it easier to grab this loot later, as you don’t gain suspect status from looting your own can!

Suspect Timer
Now head back to station and dump your loot, but be warned, shooting MTUs and looting yellow wrecks has given you a Suspect Timer. When this timer begins, any player can attack you without CONCORD intervention for the next 15 minutes. That’s not all though, shooting an MTU also gives you a Weapon Timer, which means you can’t dock or use a Stargate for 1 minute. Wait for that initial minute to pass before attempting to dock up or leave system.

If you don’t want to risk heading to a station whilst suspect, you can hang around until the timer expires before docking up. You can also use Dock/Undock bookmarks to freely move in and out of any station while you’re under a timer, but I’ll leave that for another guide.

Once all the loot is safely in station, you can come back any time to pick it up and sell it. You could even sell it in the station you dumped it in. I like to stay out hunting MTUs for a long time, so I tend to dump lots of loot in many different stations all over highsec. Then, when I need some ISK, I come back in an industrial ship to pick it all up, and sell it at a market hub.

(ii) Share your Killmails

Combat Log

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If you want to share the killmail in-game, click on your avatar near the top of your Neocom, and select Combat Log. In the drop-down menu, select Show Kills. Now you can see your MTU killmail, click and drag it to any chat box to show it to your friends, you can even click and drag it from the chat box, and into your Biography, if you want.

I would recommend posting your MTU kills to zKillboard, so you can share the fruits of your labour with your friends out-of-game. To do this, right click on your killmail in your Combat Log and select “Copy External Kill Link”. Then go to zKillboard, click the Post button at the top of the page, right-click in the field labelled “External Killmail Link”, paste your link, and hit Submit Query.

(iii) Expect Contact

Some of the owners of the MTUs you destroy will contact you, either through private conversation, or mail, wondering why you did it. Some will find it amusing, some will get angry at you, and others will just be plain confused about the whole situation. How you choose to handle this, I will leave up to you.

Fan Mail
Being under a Suspect Timer will cause a yellow flashing skull to appear next to your name in Local chat, this can cause people to contact you, asking you what you’re up to. Even just using Combat Scanner Probes can be enough to get people talking.

You can have a lot of fun talking to people about this activity, I encourage you to respond to any and all queries from other players about what you are doing.


That’s about all for this guide, if you read the entire thing, I applaud you, and I hope you found at least some of it useful. You can use this guide as a platform to build on other areas, I’ve had people tell me they’ve used this guide to scan down their own MTU that they’d lost, and others have told me that it helped them learn how to probe scan in EVE Online.

(i) Contact Me

I wrote this guide with the intention of making what I do in-game easy to understand and replicate, even for new players. If you had trouble following any part of this guide, please contact me.

The best way to contact me is to leave a post in this guide’s accompanying blog entry. This means that even if I’m not logged-into EVE, or I have taken a break from the game, you can still get in touch.

Alternatively, send an EVE Mail to me, Pix Severus, which can be sent through the Official EVE Forums, or from within the game itself. Lastly, feel free to start a private conversation with me in-game (if I’m online), I don’t bite.

(ii) Further Reading

For more detailed info on some of the mechanics involved, using an easier-to-digest format, see MTU FAQ.

For a more advanced take on hunting MTUs, specifically, the ability to scan them down without using probes, see The Magpie.

For information on how to hunt MTUs in highsec whilst your security status is -5 or lower, see MTU Mechanics for Outlaws.

For a few extra tips to help you on your way, see MTU Hunting Tips & Tricks

I will aim to keep this guide updated along with any changes to the mechanics in EVE, that may cause parts of this guide to become redundant.

Until then, enjoy the hunt!