This is my idea on how sensors/scanners might work. (Just writing out my thoughts and trying to explain them. )
[Warning: Long post ]
Every ship is equipped with a sensor-unit.
This sensor searches for new targets within its range.
The detection-range is determined by 4 things:
(1) The quality of your sensor-unit
(2) The size of the other ship
(3) Its stealth value
(4) Local obstructions (nebula/solar radiation)
Once a new ship is detected, it will appear as 'grey' marker (with the only information being the distance and a rough number about the mass) and an automatic identification request would be send (standard settings).
The other ship would then most likely reply by telling its identification (ship-class + faction) and would send its own request at you, which you would automatically answer if it is not an enemy.
Once you have exchange identification with a ship, if you are allied with one another, you start using the combined sensor-range to keep in contact (and ignore stealth values), as well as use each others sensors to get data on surrounding ships.
So you make a combined sensor-sharing-network and if the other ship was already in such a network you would become part of it and might get a whole bunch of information about the current system.
You can send a specific request at a ship to give further information such as weapon layout or current cargo. But in normal circumstances it would get denied as the other ship would most likely not share its own data for no good reason.
(Reasons could be being a freighter moving through military space [cargo request], or being in a small fleet found by police who want to know if you could become dangerous [weapon layout request].)
If a ship denies identification, it would be marked 'orange'.
Depending on the system you are in this could trigger a police interceptor to move close and scan the target at close range, or could get get it to be shot on sight in a highly military sector or near a pirate home-world. Or it could just, well, be ignored in the more barren systems.
The sensor-unit has a second function which is to scan a target. For that you need to move closer, though how close depends on the unit you have. (Police interceptor might have a good scan-range compared to their sensors range while stations will have sensor-arrays that go mostly for sensor-range.)
Scanning allows you to find out the identification of a ship, even if it denied the request. If you scan the target for a longer time you can also get information about ship-details (engine/shield), weapon layout, cargo...
If your sensor/scanner is good enough, you might be able to fully scan a target without even getting into its sensor range and being spotted.
Incidently, sending an identification request at someone (whether it gets accepted or not) will give your position away and mark you also as 'grey' target for the other ship in case it did not found you yet. (If you want to stealth, you would deactivate automatic requests.)
If you want to attack a station in a big system, you could start by deactivating/destroying 'communication relay satellites' with a small strike team to interrupt the sensor-network and then move close with your main force unseen, while the local police/military try to figure out what is going on.
In the more barren systems there might not even be a system wide network. If a station is attacked it would need to send a quick 'messenger fighter' to get help. These could of course be intercepted.
If you want to smuggle some cargo, you have multiple ways of doing so:
You could either invest in good sensors/stealth and keep out of range of everyone in the system you are flying through.
Or you could improve your cargo hold to shield against scan-attempts and bribe the ships, who send you ultimatum-like cargo requests.
You could also hire someone/use another ship to take out the local sensor-array on the next station/satellite and use the now arisen opportunity to get through the system.
Lets say you have an asteroid field with a some miners in it, which is to far away from the next station/satellite to be in sensor-range. If one of the miners gets attacked by a pirate, he would relay that information to the surrounding miners, making it possible for them to get away.
If the miners are from different factions, then only a couple would be aware of the pirates in the vicinity. (Those close enough/with good sensor and those of the same faction as the one being attacked.)
If you are a freelancer miner you could make a deal with the pirates by giving them the location of the surrounding miners (selling them out ) in exchange of being spared.
To prevent something like such an attack, the system security could invest in either a sensor-relay-satellite near the asteroid field or make police patrols to find incoming pirate strike groups. They could also position a frigate in the asteroid field as protection (and get protection money from the miners ).
If you enter a new system, you might want to search for a station or big carrier/battleship since they are (1) easier to find and (2) normally have strong sensors.
And even if they turn out to be neutral towards you, you can try to pay them with money to get into the local sensor-sharing-network and get information about the system.
In summary you would get a ship-settings-submenu about your sensors:
Well I design this all in the mind of just having a single ship or a small group. It might need some adjustments when it comes to large scale fleet management. Especially how communication between multiple different systems work. (Seeing less than 1/4 of your assets would indeed be confusing...)Cornflakes_91 wrote:i'd be very confused if i didnt have the data my scout is gathering the second it has it
Sending a scout in a system to scan the enemy fleet could go like this:
The scout is equipped with good sensors and scanners as well as having a good stealth value. You would also have a second ship watching from a little further away (out of range of the enemy) relaying the information the scout is gathering back to your fleet.