Pilots Trade Network Elite: Dangerous

Exploration Builds

Introduction to Exploration builds

PTN’s Com­mu­ni­ty Team often run explo­ration events, usu­al­ly cen­tred around a Fleet Car­ri­er expe­di­tion. These are great oppor­tu­ni­ties to get out into the black with some friends and sup­port and see what explo­ration is like. Any of the builds below will enable you to take part in these events! If you’re inter­est­ed in the nit­ty grit­ty, here are some things to con­sid­er when choos­ing your build, and the amount of mon­ey and engi­neer­ing effort you want to put in. For a more com­plete guide, check out EDAs­tro.

Jump range: Helps you get fur­ther from the Bub­ble and into unchart­ed space, but also helps in areas of the galaxy where stars are fur­ther apart. It’s pos­si­ble to explore close to home with a low jump range, but the longer your jump range, the more options open up to you, and the faster you can reach them. There are three ways to boost jump range: keep­ing your ship as light as pos­si­ble, engi­neer­ing your FSD, and using a Guardian Frame Shift Dri­ve Booster.

Guardian FSD Boost­er: Unlocked by col­lect­ing spe­cif­ic items from Guardian ruins. A guide to all Guardian unlocks can be found here. The PTN Com­mu­ni­ty Team runs reg­u­lar car­ri­er taxi ser­vices to Guardian ruins sites to help CMDRs unlock their Guardian modules.

Engi­neer­ing: The most impor­tant engi­neer for explo­ration is Felic­i­ty Farseer: She’s the first engi­neer you can unlock and can engi­neer your FSD to max­i­mum, as well as var­i­ous grades on a few oth­er use­ful mod­ules. How­ev­er, it’s now pos­si­ble to buy a ful­ly-engi­neered class 5 FSD from Human Tech Bro­kers using engi­neer­ing mate­ri­als: for ships that take a class 5 FSD, this is the supe­ri­or option as it has high­er range than a stan­dard FSD and costs less in mate­ri­als to buy than to engi­neer from scratch. Just make sure to get Felic­i­ty to put the Mass Man­ag­er exper­i­men­tal effect on it.

Fuel Scoop: A must for any explo­ration build, they don’t weigh any­thing and can be turned off when not in use. They can be expen­sive, but it’s always worth pack­ing the largest (i.e. high­est num­ber) and best rat­ed (i.e. A‑rated if pos­si­ble) you can afford (and fit).

Detailed Sur­face Scan­ner (DSS): Allows you to scan plan­ets for extra cred­its and to dis­cov­er plan­e­tary fea­tures. The pre engi­neered DSS-V1 unlocked at a Human Tech Bro­ker is even bet­ter than any engi­neered DSS.

SRV bay: The only way to explore a plan­et’s sur­face with the base game. Also use­ful in Odyssey if you plan on land­ing on plan­et surfaces.

Repair Limpets/AFMUs: Use­ful for longer jour­neys, neu­tron boost­ing, and peace of mind. AFMUs are essen­tial­ly “free” if you have a spare slot as you can turn them off to save pow­er and they don’t weigh any­thing. Repair limpets require some car­go space to use, which means you need to have at least one car­go rack on board – but if you have the mate­ri­als (or a way to gath­er them such as an SRV or Min­ing Laser), you can syn­the­sise them when need­ed rather than car­ry­ing them all the time.

Flight Assists: Flight assists are less impor­tant while explor­ing as there are far few­er oppor­tu­ni­ties to use them, so many explo­ration builds that are short on space (or pow­er) don’t take them.

Ship Launched Fight­ers (SLFs): A fun toy to play with when you’re thou­sands of light years from civil­i­sa­tion, but only avail­able on the largest ships and cost a lot of range because of their weight.

Point Defence: For explor­ing Guardian ruins specif­i­cal­ly, a point defence is use­ful as it will help shoot down seek­er drone mis­siles. How­ev­er, stan­dard explo­ration builds usu­al­ly skip these.

Mod­ule pri­or­i­ty: It’s com­mon to dis­able pow­er to mod­ules that are only need­ed on an occa­sion­al basis to allow the use of small­er (and thus lighter) pow­er plants.

You don’t need any of the above to explore (except a Fuel Scoop – you kind of do need a fuel scoop!), but they’re all help­ful options to increase your range, capa­bil­i­ty and fun-fac­tor for exploration.

Starter Explorers

You don’t need any engi­neer­ing, or even a Guardian FSD Boost­er, to get start­ed with explo­ration. These ships will hap­pi­ly take you into the unknown even if you’re fresh out of the starter area. Stay close to the Bub­ble and return fre­quent­ly to sell your explo­ration data. Con­sid­er unlock­ing Felic­i­ty Farseer and the pre-engi­neered FSD from human tech bro­kers when you can, as they’re the sim­plest ways to increase your range and thus possibilities.

Hauler //



Overview: No, you did­n’t mis­read this! If you’ve just start­ed play­ing and don’t have any mon­ey or engi­neer­ing, the hum­ble Hauler is the best option avail­able to dip your toes in the explo­ration ocean. All you need is 350k (as in, thou­sand) cred­its, which you can eas­i­ly gain in your start­ing Sidewinder in just a few hours.

With this build it’s rec­om­mend­ed to explore with­in or near the con­fines of the Bub­ble, but there are still plen­ty of places to go. To save for some­thing bet­ter, we rec­om­mend our var­i­ous Guides to mak­ing cred­its in a way which is fast and (fair­ly) fun, or you could try the Road 2 Rich­es and earn your next ship with Car­tog­ra­phy data from exploring.

Out­fit­ting: You can remove the SRV bay to gain an extra 5 lightyears jump dis­tance if you feel you don’t need it.

Diamondback Explorer //

Diamondback Explorer


Overview: The first “ded­i­cat­ed” explor­er most play­ers will have access to, the Dia­mond­back Explor­er is a fine explor­er and many CMDRs will remain in one for the rest of their explo­ration careers, upgrad­ing it with engi­neer­ing and guardian mod­ules as they go. It’s main down­side is its lim­it­ed inter­nal space.

Out­fit­ting: This is the first ship that allows you to rea­son­ably fit repair limpets. The car­go rack is so you have space to car­ry (or bet­ter, syn­the­sise) limpets to use with the controller!

Asp Explorer //

Asp Explorer


Overview: The ASP Explor­er is a nice upgrade to the Dia­mond­back Explor­er as it has more inter­nal space and a longer jump range. It turns slight­ly slow­er in super cruise but still han­dles well, and many CMDRs regard the view from its cock­pit as unrivalled.

Asp Explorer //

Asp Explorer

Karto’s “Technically Not Engineered” AspX

Overview: While tech­ni­cal­ly this does have an engi­neered mod­ule, it’s pur­chased from a Human Tech Bro­ker using engi­neer­ing mate­ri­als and does­n’t actu­al­ly require any engi­neer unlocks or engi­neer­ing rolls. Com­bine it with a Guardian FSD Boost­er (see intro or here) and you have a ship with impres­sive jumprange with min­i­mal invest­ment in upgrades. Also makes a great Bub­ble taxi before hav­ing engi­neer access! Unlock­ing the pre engi­neered Detailed Sur­face Scan­ner is just a bonus that is more than worth it (you can move the DSS to any oth­er ship instead). The Preengi­neered DSS-V1 is bet­ter than any engi­neered DSS!

The 3E Car­go rack is not essen­tial to this build. While use­ful to have for guardian unlocks and the like, it can also be exchanged for a sec­ond SRV bay. For long range explo­ration and super­charg­ing the FSD on neu­tron stars, a 3A AFMU (unpow­ered while not need­ed) can be out­fit­ted in it’s place.

Long-Range Explorers

A long-range explo­ration ship is a very per­son­al tool. It’s some­thing you will poten­tial­ly spend weeks or even months in, alone in the vast­ness of space. For that rea­son long-range explo­ration builds are very per­son­al and it’s hard to rec­om­mend spe­cif­ic builds.

Below we have includ­ed a few “Sig­na­ture” builds from mem­bers of the PTN Com­mu­ni­ty Team to give you some inspiration.

For a thor­ough guide on build­ing your own explo­ration ship, check out Elite:Dangerous Astro­met­rics com­pre­hen­sive rundown.

Diamondback Explorer //

Diamondback Explorer

“Cadence” by Sihmm

Sih­m­m’s overview: I start­ed out not lik­ing the DBX very much, but actu­al­ly fly­ing one slow­ly changed my mind. I orig­i­nal­ly designed this for com­par­a­tive­ly short-range expe­di­tions – Guardian Ruins unlocks, or mate­ri­als farm­ing – owing to its small size mak­ing land­ing eas­i­er and its low cost mak­ing rebuys less painful. I’ve kept upgrad­ing it over the years and now I’m actu­al­ly quite fond of it. Note: uses the pre-engi­neered FSD from Human Tech Brokers. 

Imperial Courier //

Imperial Courier

“Silver Arrow” by KingDeDeReee

King’s overview: The Couri­er is my favourite small ship so I said to myself it was time to build one for explo­ration and throw it in a canyon of a plan­et in an unknown sys­tem near Sagit­tar­ius A. Hav­ing “low” jump range and small fuel scoop the ship can be painful if you want to start your jour­ney from the Bub­ble but excels when the star den­si­ty increas­es like in the galac­tic Core or the regions near­by (be care­ful to not go too far up or down the galac­tic plane as the small fuel tank could cause some problems).

For the price of only 13.8m (less if you got it free in a CG or with the Wink­ing Cat event) and the rank of Mas­ter of the Impe­r­i­al Navy, you get one of, if not the fastest ship capa­ble of 40LY+ and on top of that you have an amaz­ing cock­pit view and a gor­geous look­ing ship.

To achieve this speed I used Enhanced 3A thrusters (Dirty-Dri­ve Dis­trib­u­tors) that can be bought at engi­neers like Farseer and Palin. This helps with high grav­i­ty plan­ets, nav­i­gat­ing plan­ets’ sur­face and it allows the bored com­man­der to take a break and do some crazy manoeu­vres in canyons or aster­oid fields. Just so you don’t risk your explo­ration data doing that, the ship is equipped with a 2A shield to help with light bumps (Low Pow­er to keep weight and pow­er draw down). Note that the Life Sup­port is engi­neered for G5 light­weight but it isn’t real­ly nec­es­sary, as D rat­ing it is enough to achieve good results.

Being an explo­ration ship it is also equipped with the basics for the role: Guardian FSD Boost­er, Hangar for the SRV, 2 small AFMUs to repair the FSD in case you use Neutron/White Dwarf cones and of course, an Heat Sink Launch­er (you can engi­neer it to have more ammo).

This ship and load­out also works great for exo­bi­ol­o­gy focused exploration.

Dolphin //


“Sleekit” by Dthen

Dthen’s overview: The dol­phin goes fast and far for how lux­u­ri­ous and styl­ish it is. It’s sur­pris­ing­ly well suit­ed to trav­el­ling dis­tances both long and short, with just enough room for inter­nal com­po­nents. It’s cheap, too. This is my build, but I would­n’t actu­al­ly rec­om­mend any­one engi­neer the AFMUs and every­one always tells me the rail guns are sil­ly. It’s just so much fun to fly.

Asp Explorer //

Asp Explorer

“The Road Less Traveled” by AJTP89

AJ’s overview: The AspX only gets bet­ter with engi­neer­ing (and a lit­tle pow­er man­age­ment). More pow­er­ful yet cool­er pow­er plant, tuned thrusters, and enhanced dis­trib­u­tor com­bined with the human tech bro­ker dou­ble engi­neered FSD means you can hit 70 ly while nev­er over­heat­ing. And it’s got all the fea­tures you need. AFMU keeps you neu­tron jump­ing, 6A fuel scoop so you’re topped off before your FSD charges again, two SRVs because acci­dents hap­pen, shields for those rough land­ings, and enough umph in the thrusters to get off that high G plan­et. It’s the per­fect ship to find a view wor­thy of that canopy!

Krait Phantom //

Krait Phantom

“Rhapsody” by Sihmm

Sih­m­m’s overview: There’s some­thing about the Krait Phan­tom which just hits the sweet spot for me in terms of size, per­for­mance and looks. The view from the canopy is almost as good as the Lakon ships and I don’t feel like I’m hav­ing to leave any­thing behind when I take the Phan­tom out. When I’m in or close to the Bub­ble, I swap the repair limpet and car­go rack for Assist mod­ules. Note: uses the pre-engi­neered FSD from Human Tech Brokers.

The Krait Phan­tom in gen­er­al but also espe­cial­ly this build is also great for exobi­ol­o­gy due to it’s entrance right below the cockpit. 

Beluga //


“Sightseer” by Platinum Band

Plat’s overview: This build requires min­i­mum engi­neer­ing to run as it only requires Over­charge Grade 1 on the pow­er plant to run all mod­ules with­out turn­ing any­thing off. It is rec­om­mend­ed how­ev­er to at least do full Grade 5 FSD engi­neer­ing for Increased Range, and ensure you use the Mass Man­ag­er exper­i­men­tal effect to get the best range out of this lux­u­ry lin­er that is the top 1% of all lin­ers. This ship is also equipped with a 5H Guardian FSD Boost­er to get that extra range as well. This ship does how­ev­er have a rather strong 6A Shield Gen­er­a­tor how­ev­er do be care­ful with those high G plan­et approach­es as even some­times her shield can­not sur­vive being slapped into the plan­et. To help with those shields she is equipped with not 1 but 2, 3A Shield Cell Banks for those emer­gen­cies to recov­er some shields from acci­den­tal collisions.

With a 4G Plan­e­tary Vehi­cle Hang­er you can car­ry with you 2 SRVs of your choice for those plan­et­falls and first dis­cov­er­ies. This ship does need a large land­ing area to put down, and due to slot lim­i­ta­tions she can only car­ry a 6A Fuel Scoop which means she can take some time to refill her 128t fuel tank. But on the flip side she can go 10 jumps before need­ing to be refu­elled. The thruster engi­neer­ing is pure­ly option­al but can be very nifty for those plan­et approach­es to reduce that fall speed. This ship is very well round­ed for a ship for exploration.

So all in all here is a quick pros and cons of this ship:

Pros: Can com­mit 10 jumps before need­ing to be refu­elled, has fair­ly good jump range for her size, requires very min­i­mal engi­neer­ing to oper­ate, and is beau­ti­ful in every­thing she does.
Cons: Due to slot lim­i­ta­tions can only fit a 6A fuel scoop mean­ing slow­er refu­elling time of the 128t fuel tank, thrusters are slight­ly under­sized for her ship size and weight so plan­et approach­es do need to be made with cau­tion espe­cial­ly high G plan­ets, last­ly her size can lim­it her plan­e­tary approach loca­tions mean­ing large emp­ty area to put her down is required.

Anaconda //


“Wonambi” by Anadromous

Anadro­mous’s overview: This build requires a rea­son­able amount of engi­neer­ing to make it all work, and there are some things you need to pay atten­tion to. The pow­er plant is tiny (Class 4), then over­charged to G5. Sim­i­lar­ly, the thrusters are only 5D. The low-pow­er thrusters are par­tial­ly com­pen­sat­ed for with a stripped down 5A dis­trib­u­tor with G5 engine-focused engineering.

The FSD is A‑rated, and G5 engi­neered with increased range and mass man­ag­er. With a 5H Guardian FSD boost­er, the jump range with a full tank of fuel is 69.4 LY. With neu­tron boost­ing, you can achieve 277 LY. AFMU’s allow you to repair the FSD after neu­tron star boost­ing. Dual SRV’s give you redun­dan­cy in this essen­tial piece of equip­ment for sur­face mate­r­i­al col­lec­tion, exo­bi­o­log­i­cal for­ays, and let­ting off steam when space mad­ness bites.

A small shield pro­tects from bumps and scrapes. When you need hull repairs (acci­dents hap­pen), a small car­go rack gives space for the syn­the­sis of a cou­ple of repair limpets.

The 7A scoop in this build fills the tank in about 20 sec­onds. That scoop alone cost more than many ful­ly-equipped and quite admirable explo­ration ships, but it is oh so worth it.

There are some things to be care­ful about with a ship built like this. With the stan­dard fuel tank you are only going to get FOUR jumps before you need refu­elling. Good thing you have that awe­some scoop. KGBFOAM rout­ing is crit­i­cal. The low pow­er thrusters mean you have lit­tle capac­i­ty to slow your­self down if you sud­den­ly real­ize you are land­ing on a high‑G plan­et; the shield will prob­a­bly keep you alive. Probably.

The last thing to note is the sur­face scan­ner mod­ule. This is a dual-engi­neered mod­ule that can be pur­chased from human tech bro­kers, fea­tur­ing a mas­sive increase in probe scan­ning radius.

Type-10 Defender //

Type-10 Defender

“HGC Surveyor Hawk” by Snoochy Boochy

Snoochy’s overview: Snoochy prefers an open-con­cept view when he explores, and what bet­ter way to achieve that than with Lakon’s haul­ing line. This blue­print stretch­es the Type-10 to the very edge of “light­weight”, boast­ing a jump range of 49.99ly, main­tain­ing boost capa­bil­i­ty. While this is a mod­er­ate jump dis­tance com­pared to most ves­sels avail­able… It’s key to remem­ber one thing: you’re jump­ing a fly­ing foot­ball sta­di­um. Despite the diet, Sur­vey­or Hawk man­ages to have space for a mod­est tool belt: an 8A fuel scoop to quench thirst quick­ly on long jour­neys, a 4A AFM for dam­ages, a Guardian FSD boost­er, hangar space for two SRVs, a fight­er hangar bay as well as car­go for the onboard Res­cue limpet con­troller for emer­gency recov­ery. An odd­ball favourite in Snoochy’s Dis­cov­ery lineup.

Imperial Cutter //

Imperial Cutter

“LPD Deep Messenger” by Snoochy Boochy

Snoochy’s overview: Con­struct­ed for that SR1 Nor­mandy feel dur­ing longer jour­neys, the ves­sel serves as a medi­um range sur­vey­ing craft. This blue­print hous­es hangar space for two SRVs and one SLF, both nec­es­sary for nav­i­gat­ing treach­er­ous ter­rain in search of alien flo­ra where Deep Mes­sen­ger can­not nav­i­gate safely.

On board is a max­i­mum sized 7A Frame Shift Dri­ve graced by Felic­i­ty Farseer’s team and two AFMUs for neu­tron hop­ping, this ves­sel can reach upwards to a stag­ger­ing 50ly despite it’s large size which yields a 200ly+ neu­tron-charged jump range. Deep Mes­sen­ger has been used to dis­cov­er Snoochy’s first Wolf Rayet stars and many black holes alike near the galac­tic cen­ter, and is the pri­ma­ry vehi­cle of explo­ration for CMDR Snoochy Boochy.