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I'm sure this has been suggested before but I want to put this out there because I put quite a bit of thought into this so it's not just a "gimme drones" post. Ok now that that's out of the way, onto the post itself.

I was thinking that a good thing to have for transporting goods from remote stations would be flying drones, but much smaller than the one on the hub that goes to space. Unlike the trucks, the player cannot pilot drones. Instead, the player builds drone hubs that act as waypoints for the drones as well as charging stations, as the drones will run on electric power stored in on board batteries that recharge when it is landed at a hub. The player can assign a label (or name) to the drone hubs, or leave their default designations (Drone Hub 1, Drone Hub 2, Drone Hub 3, etc.) While the drone hubs would have comparable storage space to a basic storage container, the drones themselves would have relatively little cargo space, 5 slots, maybe 8 max. Their purpose is low volume but fast transport, as opposed to a tractor or a truck which are high volume but can be extremely slow and eventually the train which I imagine is going to be extremely high volume but will have its usefulness and route time restricted by terrain.

When the player builds a drone, it must be built on the Drone Command and Control Pad and the drone is inactive when first built; it will need to be programmed. The player activates the drone to begin the programming procedure. At its most basic, and by default, there would be 3 steps in a drone's program. 

1. Pickup (Hub ID)

2. Dropoff (Hub ID)

3. Repeat. (this command causes the drone to restart the program from step 1, which causes it to fly back to the pickup hub and start again.)

The player will need to designate which drone hub to pick up from and which drone hub to drop off to. Optionally, the player can also add steps into the program to create a longer chain of pickups and dropoffs. As an example, several low yield resource deposits, if all supplied with a drone hub, could be serviced by a single drone. Example as follows. 

1. Pickup (Sulfur 1)

2. Dropoff (Factory 2)

3. Pickup (Sulfur 2)

4. Dropoff (Factory 2)

5. Pickup (Sulfur 3)

6. Dropoff (Factory 2)

7. Repeat

The drones, when running their programs, would fly up into the air 100 to 200 feet, take the most direct route from one hub to another, then descend down onto the hub landing pad. They would need some kind of collision detection that extends to at least 100 feet in all directions so that if there were a cliff face or something blocking their path, they'd be able to fly above it, but otherwise they should have no issues avoiding obstacles since they'd be flying so high in the air. Once they have established a functional path between the drone hubs in their program, they will save that program and follow it much like a truck following a programmed route. 

Perhaps as a more advanced version, smart drones could be constructed that can be programmed to pick up only specific items from a hub so that a single drone and hub could handle multiple items. As an example, the Factory 2 hub might take 4 different finished goods into its inventory, and as part of the program the drone could be programmed to take specific goods to specific destinations. Another example following.

1. Pickup (Factory 2) (Reinforced Iron Plate)

2. Dropoff (Factory 4)

3. Pickup (Factory 2) (Modular Frame)

4. Dropoff (Factory 3)

5. Pickup (Factory 2) (Cable)

6. Dropoff (Factory 1)

7. Pickup (Factory 2) (Encased Industrial Beam)

8. Dropoff (Factory 5)

9. Repeat

In the event two drones are attempting to access the same hub at the same time, whichever arrived second will hover 100 feet above the hub and wait for the first to depart, then the second will land to load or unload. If somehow two drones arrived at the same hub at exactly the same time, whichever drone is oldest (was built first) will take priority while the other drone waits.

Lastly, if you need to reprogram a drone you can either activate it while it is landed on a drone hub landing pad, or if it's too inconvenient to get to its hub or to wait for it to show up, you can access the Drone Command and Control Pad where you build the drones and have it come back to you, which will take some time depending on how far away it is from the DCCP. Activating that station will open a menu listing all active drones. From here, you can check the status of any drones and you can also select a drone to send a remote override code to. This code will erase the drone's entire program and reprogram it with a single command.

1. Dropoff (Drone Command and Control)

This will cause the drone to stop whatever it is doing and path back to the DCCP where it will land, unload any cargo it may be carrying into the DCCP inventory, and become inactive until it is reprogrammed.

by
Someone's been playing too much "Surviving Mars" :)
by
I wish Surviving Mars gave you such control over drones. The AI handles all their routing and it's completely stupid. I've had drones literally starve entire domes because as soon as a drone would deliver food to the stockpile outside the dome, it'd turn right around and pick it right back off and carry it off elsewhere despite the stockpile in question not being at its desired level and the main food stockpile, outside the farming domes, not having a minimum desired level and being full to near bursting.

To be fair, I haven't played in a very long time so maybe they've fixed their stupid drone AI since then.
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