If I take goods into a station illegally I tend to get scanned and either shot down or fined more than the good are worth.

How do you practically and reliably smuggle goods into a station?

I've seen various bits of advice but they don't appear to be consistent:

  • Do I need to be in Silent Running?
  • Do I have to go silent as soon as I drop out of FSD, or can I line up the entrance from 8k out and then go silent?
  • Should I still request docking rights from the station?
  • If not what should I do when I get inside?
  • Are there any ships/components that help hide what I'm carrying?
  • At what range does scanning occur?
  • Am I better off creeping in slowly or is it better to go in quick (probably with Flight Assist off)?

3 Answers 3


Smuggling takes a bit of effort as well as some luck.

First you need to understand how detection works, your ship's heat signature is above your fuel gauge. The bigger it is, the farther you will be detected from. Turning on Silent Running will cap this detection range at 500M, but it will heat up your ship very quickly, so use it sparingly or pack heatsinks

You always need docking permission and landing is as you would normally. You should make sure that the system you are heading to has a black market, though. (the commodity market won't buy illegal goods)

There are no modules/internals that will hide your cargo, but you can go for ships that have a low default heat signature like the Cobra, and turn off unnecessary modules to lower your heat output.

Try going for outposts instead of starports, as they generally have much less enforcement hovering around. If you do find yourself at a starport, lining yourself up with the mailslot while out of range or flying very close to the starport will hide you much better than just moseying on in.

If you are getting scanned, don't panic. It takes a short while for the scan to complete and once you enter the mailslot, the scan is broken. Just pick up the pace a bit and get in there.

  • Is there a particular range when they start scanning? Do you have to go silent as soon as you drop out of FSD, or can you line up the entrance from 8k out and then go silent as you cruise in? Finally, are you better off creeping in slowly or going in quick with Flight Assist off?
    – Keith
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 19:27
  • 1
    Can't really answer that one. it's pretty much the "luck" part, sometimes security will completely ignore you, sometimes they are right in front of the mailslot waiting to scan. I'd go silent when you are closer to the station and detect security service (if you can detect them, they can probably see you too). Going in quick is best, just a bit more dangerous, and if you crash it could end badly. Flight assist is up to you, doesn't offer much benefit if it's on or off.
    – Rapitor
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 19:33

I smuggle a lot and have never had to use silent running and never get fined. Here are some tips:

  • drop out of jump from within the orbit of the station. (i.e. between the planet and the station.) In most cases, this will leave you with the docking bay facing you).

As quickly as possible:

  • boost (keyboard:TAB) and set your speed to maximum (keyboard:#4). Aim for ~1.5km directly outside the station entrance (or near the end of advertising billboards, if the station has them). Keep hitting boost.
  • maximum pips to engine, other pips to shields (ideally, do this before dropping out of supercruise)
  • Request docking as late as possible. I usually get it done around 5km. Keep on hitting boost while you're looking for the contact in the console. (I'm not sure if this really helps)
  • as late at you are comfortable (~3-4km), reduce speed to 75% (F3 on the keyboard) and keep this speed as you enter the mailslot. Usually I enter the station around 180km/h. The red circle at the back of the station should appear in the center of the mailslot -- this is the best way to know if you are correctly lined up. One thing to note -- at high speeds, your ship drift in the direction it was heading for a long time leading to over-corrections. Small course corrections work much better.

I do this every time -- I have an Asp. I'm usually not scanned -- but when I am, I'm always inside the station by the time it finishes.

Whatever you do, don't boost as you enter the mailslot -- you'll either hit the entrance or far wall inside. Set you speed to maximum if you think a scan might complete before you're inside. If you do boost by accident, setting maximum pips to shields can help avoid destruction.

When leaving with illicit cargo, simply boost away from the station as soon as possible. Try not to exit in front of another ship. If you do, put them behind you.

  • 4
    Great tips. I've also found that you can fire chaff if they start scanning you early.
    – Keith
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 7:23

I found since using a docking computer, I have not been scanned once entering a port although exiting is another matter. As stated previously, you need to haul ass as soon as you're outside and for some strange reason, I tend not to be scanned if I'm rolling my ship (port or starboard). This could just be pure luck though.

  • Since posting my previous answer, the roll technique must have just been pure luck because I have been scanned a few times now. I have since learned switching full pips to engines and boosting as much as possible gets me out of the scan range when leaving the station, even if a scan is started, it doesn't seem to get completed. Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 6:07

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