How effective are medium and large drones against smaller targets?

Medium and large drones cause significantly more damage than small drones. But they are also much slower and have much worse tracking.

The Vexor can field a theoretical maximum damage set of drones consisting of 2x Ogre II, 2x Hammerhead II and 1x Hobgoblin II. While this gives the theoretical maximum damage, I'm wondering if the Ogre II can actually apply significant damage on cruiser-sized targets. If they could not, then using all medium drones might be a better idea for cruiser fights.

I'm ignoring flight time for the moment, as this depends a lot on the distance of the drones and is something I can calculate with EFT/Pyfa. I'm mostly interested in the effect of tracking on attacking smaller drones, and I can't see a way to simulate that with either EFT or Pyfa.

What are the minimum target sizes for medium and small drones above which they can apply most of their damage effectively? How effective would large drones be against AB-fitted cruisers?

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Ogres should have no trouble whatsoever hitting cruiser-sized targets. I'd be more worried about cruiser-sized weaponry having a relatively easy time hitting them as opposed to the much faster hobgoblins. – Shadur Jan 10 '13 at 13:12
Im not exactly sure of the prescice numbers, but you could always check the drone info. I'm pretty sure that it has the same properties as your turrets when it comes to hitting targets. – user1337 Jan 10 '13 at 15:16
@user37332 The problem is that I down't know exactly how fast the drones orbit the target and at which distance. I can look up the tracking of the drones, but I don't have enough information to actually calculate the damage. – Mad Scientist Jan 10 '13 at 15:22

Although Task's answer is good, like with most things in EVE online, situation dictates. For the purposes of this discussion we will use Gallente drones (you have a Vexor after all).

Hobgoblin max speed: 2,800

Ogre: 840

Obviously the MWD bonus of the Algos and the Dragoon will impact this, but you get the idea.

Most PVP frigates worth their salt will be going at least 2500, and most beyond even that. In this case the likelihood of any drones hitting is pretty nil. With the re-balances, even most cruisers are going well above Ogre speeds.

However, many combat Vexors fit single and double web, and a scram to shut off micro-warp drives, dragging the targets speed down substantially. If you can manage to catch your enemy and drag them down to < 400 m/s then Hammers or Ogres could still be effective.

For PVE I have found the biggest issue is travel time to raise your isk/hour and to reduce the tedium. In that case I generally pack lights or mediums. My Rattlesnake brings long and close range sentries, and a flight of lights to handle frigates.

I have found in practice that tracking doesn't factor in nearly as much as simply catching up. If the target is slow enough for the drones to out run, they can probably hit. Ogre's are medium sized weapons and has 2x the tracking of Electron blasters on a Vexor 0.36 vs 0.185. So basically tracking is not the issue.

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Large drones are highly ineffective against smaller (Frigate sized or less) targets.
Medium drones can be effective against Frigate-sized targets, but the Light drones are really best against them. Tracking and speed are the main concerns, smaller targets tend to have high speed and agility, the larger drones have issue not just tracking them but also keeping up with them. Not to mention the whole "get to them in the first place" issue.

My advice would be to ignore T2 drones unless you're doing PvP, drones should be viewed as completely expendable and PvE battles aren't worth the expense. Light drones should be your default armament unless you know that everything you're going up against is larger than a Frigate.

The general rule is this:
Light drones - Use against Destroyers, Frigates, and Drones
Mediume drones - Use against Battlecruisers and Cruisers
Heavy drones - Use against Battlecruisers or anything larger

EVElopedia Reference

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I've found that with attentive management of my drones during PvE, I lose approx one T2 drone per week, the cost of which is easily covered. If you're afk mission-running though it would definitely get expensive fast. – Fambida Jan 10 '13 at 21:05