(Draiv Solregard's Exploration guide is subject to change, based on updated information, new information, expansions, and the apocalypse. If you notice any errors in this guide, wait for your booster side effects to subside. If the error is still there let me know and I'll look into it.)
Each race has a basic frigate and covert ops that has bonuses to scanning and hacking. While you can use whatever ship you want, you really just end up hurting yourself by not using the ones that have bonuses. There are two bonuses which you will look for on a ship. These are the scan strength of probes which will increase for each level you train of the designated skill. The other is called a Role Bonus which applies only once and acts like an attribute of that ship.
- 7.5% increase to scan strength of probes per level of (Faction) frigate skill level
- +5 Virus Strength to Relic and Data Analyzers (Role Bonus applies ONLY once)
The most important part of picking your basic frigate or covert ops which will make it the "best" is to pick something you want to fly. The bonuses are the same across all races so the only "important" factor is flying what you like.
For those of you who want "the best" then the order of frigates from best to worse is.
· Heron - The reason this ship comes out the best is because of that extra mid which allows you to fit an extra scan upgrade module for faster acquisition of sites. It also has the furthest targeting range to allow an easier time cherry picking larger sites.
· Imicus - This ship is better than the probe solely because it has more targeting range.
· Probe - Having average stats across the board makes this ship effective.
· Magnate - There is one major flaw to the Magnate which is that it only has three mid slots and you really need four to fit the basics. It will still work but requires docking at station to swap modules, or to complete sites without a cargo scanner.
· 10% increase to scan strength of probes per level of Covert Ops skill level
· +10 Virus Strength to Relic and Data Analyzers (Role Bonus applies ONLY once)
Again as was stated above, "the best" ship will be the one you like. All the ships do well with exploration and hacking so you'll be successful despite which one you choose.
Now for the list of "the best" covert ops from best to worse.
· Helios - Coming out on top because of the five mid slots and larger powergrid for easier fitting options.
· Anathema - This ship pulls ahead of the other two because of the larger powergrid making fitting easier.
· Cheetah - Though it has a much lower targeting range than the Buzzard, it pulls ahead because it has three low slots instead of two which will affect fitting options.
· Buzzard - Many will claim that the Buzzard should be first or second, the reason it is last on this list is that with only two low slots it gimps your ability to fit maneuverability modules and has a low powergrid.
To reiterate make sure to choose which one you want to fly, because if you're flying a ship you don't like I think you're doing it wrong. For a better understanding of why I made these choices check out the modules section.