Equipment: Scanners and Sensors.

Tollon's picture
Tollon
November 7, 2014 - 4:46pm
Two peices of equipment which often interchangable in Sci-fi stories, the scanner and sensor.  Here is my attempt to clarify the difference between the two.

Scanner:  This came from Star Trek but I did two important things.  I limited their range and their scope of detection.  I then divided them into three classes: Multiscanner, Maintenance and Medical scanner.  The device also uses a computer program to do an analysis what the person was reading on his screen. The best way to look at Scanners is how a CAT scan works. The following is a general description of what a scanner can do.

Range and Motion Detection:  The scanner can detect whether or not an object is moving or stationary.  It can also give you the range to the object.

Power Source: This function allows the operator to see what sort of power an object is using.  It can detect fire, internal combustion engines, atomic power, electricity, and fusion reactors.  Depending on the power source, even the hand held deceive can detect a source at a great distance.

Physical Structure: The device can analyze any physical object within its range.  Detail scans are done at close range.  At medium and long range, an operator can tell the difference between a rock, building or starship.  At close and short range, he can tell you what the molecular structure is.

Life Type:  The scanner can discern between plants and animals at long range.  At close range (100 meters or less) they can determine if a life form is a reptile, mammal, bacteria, etc.  More detail information is gained by use of a medical scanner.

Range for these devices run from 100 meters to 1 AU.  The greater the distance causes a time lag between the scanner and the information.  There are two modes for a Scanner: Active and Passives.  Active is where the operator sends out a beam to scan an object while Passives use naturally occurring background particles to pass through an object to collect information on the target.  Active can be detected by another ship while passives cannot.  The downside to Passive scanners is there is a considerable time lag between detection and getting a reading due to the realistic nature of normal space.

Medical and Maintenance are used at Point blank range (10 meters or less).  These specialized scanners are intended to aide in the diagnostic and detail study of an object.  +30 to the operating the scanner in making a diagnostic.

Scanners can be used by anyone but it takes a person with a Scanner Ops skill to ensure a proper reading is derived from the device.  Otherwise, the person using the scanner must rely on the microcomputer database and Predict program. 

Handheld devices general come in two pieces: The Emitter and receiver and power pack/computer housing. They are connected by a cord. Early models are the size of a back pack, at higher Tech Level the device is merged into a single unit.  There range is limited to 10 kilometers but could detect a strong power source up to 100 kilometers away.  Their programs are limited to Level 2.

Vehicle Based Scanners can have up to 100 kilometer range and limited to Level 4.

Starship Base Scanners have up to a 1 AU range and limited to Level 6.

Scanner Ops skill is a level +10 on a die roll.

Sensors:  You have to think of sensors as a human’s five senses: Touch, taste, smell, seeing and hearing.  These are devices that for the most part come in contact with an object.  They include:  Atmospheric detector, Radiation detector, audio detector, multi spectrum cameras, EMF Detectors, Chemical detectors, motion detector, etc.  Unlike a scanner, it doesn’t put out a beam to gather information rather it samples the surrounding area (within 10 meters of a person).

Sensors can tell you the direction something is moving or range through the use of optics, which way the winds blowing, what is the light source being used or what is in the area surrounding it and what chemicals are in the area. Sensors are usually stationary for the best results.  They are used on probes to gather information about planets.

Since sensors are a passive device they can be placed anywhere and can be shield against detection.  To gain the information from one of these devices, a comlink or physical download must be made.


Comments:

Abub's picture
Abub
November 7, 2014 - 9:02pm
i'm always iffy on scanners in particular in SF.  So much of the assuption of players comes from Trek and Starwars but the tech in those settings is WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY higher then SF.

By cannon our ships are limited to radar (some sort of super fast radar considering the distances) and if your ship is all pimped out and energy scanner which basically just detects radioactive engines.

So... in a particular game with higher tech your scanner would be great... but i think it is too high for what i'm shooting for in my game.
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Tollon's picture
Tollon
November 7, 2014 - 10:03pm

Quote from Knight Hawks:

Energy Sensors

Energy Sensors detect the radiating energy of chemical rockets, atomic rockets and any other source of extreme heat. This includes stars, nuclear explosions, volcanic activity and even large geysers, but not ion engines. Energy sensors can detect very strong sources of heat, such as stars, at ranges up to 100 light years. The radiating energy travels at the speed of light, so the information detected from a source 20 or 30 light years away will be 20 or 30 years old.

The energy produced by atomic engines can be detected with an energy sensor up to 500,000 kilometers away. The heat from a chemical engine will be detectable at ranges up to 200,000 km. An energy sensor unit costs 200,000 Cr.

This indicates to me a very sophisticated thermal imaging system.  My suggestion is that scanners are a combination of a radar and a Cat scanner.   All they tell the players is what the ship looks like, range, direction of movement, power source and  whether or not the ship is manned or unmanned.  During combat the only thing they are really good for is to tell the players where they hit and the damage to the ship.

Scanners ranges can always be changed to fit the game system.  Jamming devices can be created to negate the use of scanners as well. 

Player seem to gravitate towards these systems during gaming anyway.  By writing this, I have given you the options on how to limit the player's use of such a system.  I don't see something as small a tricoder in Star Frontier, but something of what I descirbe having two peices seems to fit the game system.


jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 8, 2014 - 4:50am
I would say that determining whether a ship has life on board requires a close range for the scan.

If I was to write the SF rules today I would simply go with 2 or 3 systems: long range which does X and short range which does Y and put in place an extra system that costs extra that not everyone bothers with but does Z. Probes have scanners that are not the same power as the ships but they let you relay data over distance such that a ship can stand off and scan a potentially dangerous area.

Jamming systems do A, B, or C depending on the system and intent, for example shielding in a military design feature and prevents a ship from being able to effectively scan the interior of a vessel.

Tactical jamming, or ECM is aimed at preventing a good lock on to the vessel.

Communication jamming burns a lot of power and works like the white noise caster of KHs.

What's important is to use terms like sensors and scanners and stay away from real world tech that might have tech breakthroughs during out lifetime that make the game seem wonky and out of date. Its just a game and there will be long and short range sensors in the future and we simply need to model that.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Ascent's picture
Ascent
November 8, 2014 - 5:54pm
A scanner is active. A sensor is passive.
A scanner analyzes. A sensor detects.
A scanner invades space. A sensor's space is invaded.
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KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 10, 2014 - 1:04am
There is an interesting overview about such things here:

http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/spacewardetect.php

If anything, an energy sensor with a range of 200,000 to 500,000 in Star Frontiers is somewhat unsophisticated and outdone by current sensors in our modern world Wink

Abub's picture
Abub
November 10, 2014 - 12:20pm
I'm looking for ways to make space encounters more varied.

Sooo... using some of the ideas in this article KR put up (which I'm pretty certain has been posted before),  I have a mission coming up for my PCs where a planet they are parked at with an away team down on the surface will have pirates show up, coming to extort valuable resources from the planet a second time.  (Is that a run on sentence?)

So... I'm gonna say as a military ship they generally scanning with radar (I've not decided yet if they have an energy sensor on thier UPF Frigate).  Sooo... perhaps beyond the 30 hex range of radar the radar pulse can be heard, but is just to far away to reliably send back an echo.

Maybe the pirate ship can delect the radar as they approach and slide in jamming with thier ion drive so they can send thier own away team down to the surface.  I was sort of planning on having them send a fighter down launched from a heavily converted freighter.  Maybe some kind of areo-bomber with chem drives.

If I give them an energy sensor... would the ion jamming still work?  By making it look like surrounding space radiation?


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KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 10, 2014 - 2:49pm
An energy sensor will alert your players to the fact that large ion source has just appeared nearby. It wouldn't take a genius to suspect that it's not natural Wink It'd also easily stand out against the background energy levels of space. Aside from that, the same sensors should pick up the ship as a heat source from quite some distance away, and give your players enough time to respond.

TerlObar's picture
TerlObar
November 11, 2014 - 5:59am
Plus I believe that Energy Sensors are standard equipment on all Spacefleet vessels except fighters.  I know I put them on every one I design, they are just too useful.
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Abub's picture
Abub
November 11, 2014 - 9:13am
yeah probably right... then i'm in the trek transporter situation... where the writers are constantly coming up with reasons why the transporters can't work because 90% of all away team situations can be solved with transporters.
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jedion357's picture
jedion357
November 11, 2014 - 12:26pm
True enough that energy sensors will detect ships in the outer system but the information that it is providing you is not FTL. Its old and does not reflect the true position of the ship.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Abub's picture
Abub
November 11, 2014 - 5:48pm
Now I know this might not pass the test of 20th century sensors can do that ...

I see on KH it specifically says ion engines are not detectable by energy sensors.  Energy sensors only see extreem heat / energy. Ion drives run to quiet for them. 
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TerlObar's picture
TerlObar
November 12, 2014 - 5:02am
Yes, energy sensors can't detect ion drives but that ship still shows up on radar unless they are using the drive to create an ion window in which case the entire window shows up on the radar.  In which case you can't find the individual ship making it or any other ion drive ships inside it.  You can, however, see any atomic drive ships in the window with your energy sensors.  And of course the radar of any ship inside the window doesn't work either.  So they had better have energy sensors as well or they're flying blind.  And I've always played that if you get close you can "burn through" the window but you'll have to get within weapons range to do that.  In fact you have to get into the same hex.  Basically if you enter a hex that has a ion window in it you can see anything in that hex although the ship producing the window itself still recieves a -10 defensive modifier if you try to target it.
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Abub's picture
Abub
November 12, 2014 - 11:30am
Hmm. There has to be a way to stealth your ship. 

I know it says the other guy will see the ion radar jamming window but is that how radar works?  I mean. Can radar detect clouds?

I suppose that is how weather radar works. 

Decoys seem expensive but maybe pirates would need them. 


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TerlObar's picture
TerlObar
November 12, 2014 - 11:51am
Actually stealthing a ship is really, really, really, really (enough really's yet?) hard.  You can shut down the radios, weapons, sensors, everything but you still have the heat signature from your engines you were running (if they were atomic or chemical) which will be bright unless they've been cold for a long time and the general thermal emission from your life support system.  You do want to not freeze right?  So your entire ship will be radiating like a ~300K blackbody, i.e. peak emission at 10 microns in the infrared. 

Now you could insulate the heck out of the ship but then you're trapping heat inside and have to get rid of it somehow or you cook.  If you're not radiating out over the entire surface of the ship, it will be more concentratated and therefor hotter (and brighter).  Actually the latter is probably more likely because vacuum is a perfect insulator and actually getting rid of heat is a problem.  It takes an active system to do it.  That's why the shuttle bay doors were always open when in orbit.  The inside of the bay doors contained an active heat radiator system to get rid of the heat generated by the people and equipment in the shuttle.  IIRC they have 8 hours from launch to get those doors open or there starts to be serious problems with the mission and health of the crew.

You could do some things to minimize your signature as you approach, i.e. have a radiator system that sends the energy away from the direction your facing (but someone behind you would see you just fine) running on minimum power, minimizing your cross section (BTW, this is the rationale I have for the UPF ships being so long and skinny - point the bow at your target and you get a much smaller radar and energy sensor cross section for them to pick up on), etc.  But I think once you get close to anything with decent sensors (and I define close as 100,000km or 10 hexes) they are going to see you if they are looking.  Misdirection is probably the better bet.  Get them looking somewhere else and not at you.

Now you've got me curious and I'm going to have to figure out just how bright a 300K source that is 10m in diamter is at various ranges.Smile
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TerlObar's picture
TerlObar
November 12, 2014 - 11:54am
And as to your question as to how radar works.  Yes, active radar send out a signal and looks for reflections.  They defnitely see clouds.  When the Orbital Antares rocket blew up on launch last week, all the local radar weather radars detected and measured the expanding smoke cloud from the explosion.  There were radar pictures of it posted on-line.  And since the ion drives are releasing charged particles, they would react even more strongly with the electomagnetic waves send out by the radar.
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Abub's picture
Abub
November 12, 2014 - 9:29pm
Hmm, Energy sensors defeat decoys.

Energy Sensors are also extreemly expensive... 200K for that one system.  Of course they are hella useful for military ships.  The Frigate is the first capital ship so I guess it should still have one.  I need to decide for myself how flush with money my UPF is or not.
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KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 15, 2014 - 4:55am
The link I posted above from Atomic Rockets site ably demonstrates that stealth is not an option in space, no matter what you try. Energy sensors can pick out sources at very large distances.

Energy sensors are a tad overpriced, I'd say - but it depends how they work on a tactical level in terms of supplying information, etc that patches into a wider combat system within the ship. If, for example, they can track many targets over a wide area and suggest targetting information and other data then perhaps that might explain the large price tag. But if you just have a sensor that just tells you range and direction, then perhaps 200,000 is a bit much.

Maybe there's a need for a scaled approach to buying sensors? Perhaps the basic package (i.e.. the one that just looks around and tells you range and direction) costs less than the full-on, multi-targetting/tracking/predicting package?

Tollon's picture
Tollon
November 15, 2014 - 8:06am

I look at it this way.

 

Every ship needs a navigational array (Nav-Array).  This allows the ship to locate other ships in normal space and travel around a planet without running into another ship.  Under normal conditions every ship within the range of the Nav-Array should show up on their navigational screens.  They also allow them to travel around in normal space without running into an asteroid or planet.

 

Astronavigation equipment (or Astronav) is used to plot new courses through space and is not required on all ships.  It’s an additional package the player may or may not opt for.  The Astronav is standard on research vessels.

 

Tactical Arrays are used on military ships and are similar to nav-arrays but have the ability to detect ships that are attempting to evade civilian nav-arrays.   They have the computer packages which allow them to predict target’s movement, aide in targeting ships, evading incoming weapons (Missiles and torpedo) and identifying the type of ship firing on them.  This is standard equipment on military ships.  On civilian and research vessel it is an optional piece of equipment and quite expensive.

 

Scanners and Sensors are used by both military and scientific vessel but are not necessary on civilian ships.  They are quite expensive as well.  There main use is aiding in research so they are considered bonuses to the operator skills.  And yes, they can tell the player what they have found sort of like a detect magic spell in D&D.

 

Game systems in general tend to over complicate equipment.  A ship carrying passengers and cargo from Point A to Point B doesn’t need to calculate Point B if it is a standard route.  These standardized routes are built into a nav computer or avionics’ package of the ship.   As long as the ship remains in good condition, there shouldn’t be a problem with navigating these routes.  Only smugglers, pirates, military and research ships need an astronav, since they are the ones looking for different ways to evade, find or locate planets and authorities by going off the beaten path.

 

As far as arming ships, the weapon system comes with its own targeting systems and built in to the price of the weapon system.  Evasion programs are rather useless on a ship design to carry cargo.  It is better just to slap some decoys on the ship to stop incoming weapons and deceiving the enemy of your location. Converting a cargo ship over be a smuggler or pirate ship is another matter which involves replacing a lot of the standard features on a ship to make it much more capable of handling the rigors of combat.

 

Since stealth has come up with in this thread, I’ll through my thoughts out on the matter.

 

Stealth as we know it is about two things:  Reducing your signature (EM emission) and camouflage.  A ship doesn’t have to hide its IR signature or engine output.  It only needs to blend in with the background radiation and light sources within a solar system.

 

Look at how submarines hid in the ocean and you’ll get a feeling about I’m talking about here.  They mask their engines reducing the sound they transmit into surrounding water.  They use variations in water temperature to deflect sound or mask their presence to an enemy submarine.  The same could be done in space using the solar winds.

 

Star Frontiers uses two items which conform to this vision. The Masking Screen is camouflage which makes the ship appear to be an asteroid or comet.   Since Ion engines are low power and throw out particles they mimic the solar winds.

 

Granted, a ship is going to be easier to find in open space, rather than in an asteroid belt, ort cloud or planetary ring.   Therefore it is reasonable to assume enemy ships are not going to just pop into normal space where there is nothing to hide in.  They are going to look for places where their reduced signature and camouflage is going to work best.

 

They also better their chances of evading detection by jumping further away from known detection sources.  A ship jumping in at 1 AU from a planet has about eight minutes to reduce its signature, apply its camouflage and change course before it is detected by planet or ship based equipment.  We then have to add the civilian and military response time to the 8 minute head start.  This coupled with travel time to the last know plot of the ship’s course, the intruder may have several hours to days before the actual hunt begins for the enemy ship. If said jump takes place outside a dense asteroid belt, it then becomes a cat and mouse game.

 

They don’t have to be high tech devices either.

 

The Stealth fighter uses its shape to defect incoming radar signals and baffles in the engines to reduce its IR signature.  It does have Radar absorbent material as well, which is high tech stuff.  So if were to advance just these ideas a few hundred years our stealth starship uses baffles in their exhaust and hull plating to defuse the IR signature. Scanner absorbent material which lowers it EM signature and finally, they pulse their drives to mimic solar activity.   Instead of them being a starship, they now appear to be an uncharted chunk of rock.

 

Finally, you have to look at the traffic and military preparedness of the planet an enemy ship jumps into.  If it is a busy system with low military presence or they are lacking in their monitoring of the system, a ship will have a much easier time entering the system than one that is on high alert.  Failures in system monitoring and preparedness can allow a ship to enter the system unnoticed.


TerlObar's picture
TerlObar
November 15, 2014 - 8:31am
I don't think they are really overpriced as I see them including instruments that can detect energies in the radio, microwave, gamma ray, xray, infrared, and ultraviolet.  Thus there are a lot of speicalized detectors invovled.
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Abub's picture
Abub
November 15, 2014 - 11:53pm
would you think energy sensors are really scanners and not sensors?  Like... are the active or reactive and do they need focused on an area or are they scanning in 360 degrees all the time?
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KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 16, 2014 - 2:26am
Energy sensors are passive. Think of them as being like  a heat-sensitive camera or FLIR. They can only 'see' energy that comes towards them, they cannot  send out any sort of beam, etc to do that job.

KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 16, 2014 - 2:33am
Tollon wrote:
Stealth as we know it is about two things:  Reducing your signature (EM emission) and camouflage.  A ship doesn’t have to hide its IR signature or engine output.  It only needs to blend in with the background radiation and light sources within a solar system.

Look at how submarines hid in the ocean and you’ll get a feeling about I’m talking about here.  They mask their engines reducing the sound they transmit into surrounding water.  They use variations in water temperature to deflect sound or mask their presence to an enemy submarine.  The same could be done in space using the solar winds.

[...]

The Stealth fighter uses its shape to defect incoming radar signals and baffles in the engines to reduce its IR signature.  It does have Radar absorbent material as well, which is high tech stuff.  So if were to advance just these ideas a few hundred years our stealth starship uses baffles in their exhaust and hull plating to defuse the IR signature. Scanner absorbent material which lowers it EM signature and finally, they pulse their drives to mimic solar activity.   Instead of them being a starship, they now appear to be an uncharted chunk of rock.


A ship could not possibly blend in with the background. It's still too hot, compared to space and what's in space. And because space is nothing like seas and oceans, things cannot work as they do for submarines. Sure, you could have radar-avoiding capabilities, but they're retty much useless as your ship will always be detectable because of it's heat signature, no matter what you do. Various exotic ways have been dreamt up over th eyears to get around this, but they don't work. As I've stated previously, the Atomic Rockets page gives a pretty good overview of why this is the case. Sorry Wink

Tollon's picture
Tollon
November 16, 2014 - 7:16am

 

Fun Fact:

 

Sometime around the beginning of the 80’s people in the Southwest United States began seeing triangular shape object in the night sky.  UFO enthusiasts believe they had something big.  Then in 91 at the beginning of Gulf War we learn about F117 Nighthawk.  Its triangular shape and faceted fuselage stunned us.  We also learned about fly-by wire and other technologies incorporated into the aircraft.    According to the inter web, development of the Stealth Fighter began 1975.  A full 15 years before they were made public in 1990.  The first test flight took place in Dec. 1977.

 

The Stealth Fighter changed our perception of what could fly and how it could be done.  Fly by wire (as my brother and I joked) could make a brick fly.  The second thing it did was to introduce us to concept of stealth.  And finally, it proved the government could keep a secret.

 

Under our present level of technology, stealth is not possible in space.  It doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it’s just means we don’t have the technical know-how or scientific wear with all to do it at the present time.

 

By the way, triangular shaped UFO are still all the rage in the UFO community, just watch History Channel’s Hanger One…

 


Tollon's picture
Tollon
November 16, 2014 - 7:35am

I made my last comment with a bit of tongue and cheek.  The point I was trying to make was the stealth fighter change our perception and how it was mistaken for aliens from another planet.

 

Nor do we have to reduce our IR signature to absolute zero.  It just has to blend in with surrounding space.  Exhaust particles or energies from our SF drives mimic solar winds.  Instead of it looking like a starship on our screens, it’s now seems to appear like an asteroid, comet or dust orbiting the star.  Our intention is to fool the operator and the device intended to locate the craft into believing it is something else.  We’re not attempting to mask or hide the ship, we’re just lowering its signature to the point it doesn’t register on the devices intended to detect it.

 

It brings us back to our perception of things that can and can’t be done.


Abub's picture
Abub
November 16, 2014 - 7:43am
doesn't it seem like the fact decoy's can't fool energy sensors is a little foolish.... i mean if all military ships are going to have energy sensors... wouldn't you build a decoy device with something that gives off heat?

It makes me think the game designers expected energy sensors to be a rarity.
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Tollon's picture
Tollon
November 16, 2014 - 8:01am

Abub:  I believe the game designers wanted it to stay out of the hands of your average player.  Military characters sure, but not the civilian characters.  You don't want your civilian population on par with your military and the same goes with your characters...


Abub's picture
Abub
November 16, 2014 - 8:23am
Well, maybe.

Still decoy's should be designed to fool military and star law vessels with energy sensors.
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Abub's picture
Abub
November 16, 2014 - 8:24am
oh and you would think since they can be used in the avanced board game... they would note that military ships have them or not.
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KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 18, 2014 - 5:03am
Tollon wrote:

 

Under our present level of technology, stealth is not possible in space.  It doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it’s just means we don’t have the technical know-how or scientific wear with all to do it at the present time.

 

By the way, triangular shaped UFO are still all the rage in the UFO community, just watch History Channel’s Hanger One…

 



Unless someone invents some sort of super-duper heat absorber, stealth won't be possible. As for those UFOs, the ones that have allegedly been involved with the aircraft of various air forces have shown up on radar - so much for otherwordly high tech Wink

KRingway's picture
KRingway
November 18, 2014 - 5:08am
Abub wrote:
doesn't it seem like the fact decoy's can't fool energy sensors is a little foolish.... i mean if all military ships are going to have energy sensors... wouldn't you build a decoy device with something that gives off heat?

It makes me think the game designers expected energy sensors to be a rarity.


It's not foolish. The link I provided above shows how decoys wouldn't work. It's worth a read.