Here is what I can find out so far about the auto tractor unit. You can read it yourself in the thread where Fozzie announces them; these are taken from his posts:
- 100m3 volume.
- When deployed has storage of 27000m3 (just slightly less than a jetcan). Cannot be deployed closer to 5km from other deployables.
- 125km tractor range.
- Can tractor one target at a time. Checks for targets every 10 seconds. Will tractor anything that the game would allow the owner to tractor. It keeps tractoring all day long even when full.
- You can scoop and reuse it. If you scoop it while it has items in the cargo, it will spawn a jetcan with those items which you can then loot what you'd like from.
- Tractor speed is 1000m/s. [Note: 2 minute tractor time at max range! Ouch.]
- Rats won't target it.
- Has an automatic activation time [apparently its "onlining" time], currently set to 45 seconds.
- Only the owner can take from it.
- Can be probed and is visible on d-scan. Easy to probe.
- It can be destroyed. Hitpoints in the range of 80000 or so. Drops loot just like a ship, 50% chance of each stack dropping.
- Shooting one in highsec gets you a suspect flag but no Concord.
- It has the same kind of decay timer that anchored cans do, where if you interact with the cargo often it never goes away but if left alone it disappears after 2 days.
As of now, on singularity there are bugs. Or odd features. From this thread:
- It does not work when nobody is on grid. CCP says this will be fixed.
- Targets your ship, or other ships (including cloakies). CCP stays this will be fixed.
- Two of them within range of each other "see" each other's wrecks and play ping-pong.
Assuming the two problems they say will be fixed are fixed, so that the thing is useful, I can see a lot of application for it. Basically, anyone who is salvaging any substantial wreck field currently will probably do better to pack one of these (or more, assuming they fix the ping-pong feature). Deploy it ASAP and let it tractor while you salvage. It's like an extra tractor with super-long range. If you currently use a Noctis with 4/4, go to 3/5 and go faster. Or deploy more than one as close to each other as possible, and sit between going even faster.
Of course, if you can tractor a wreck, then you probably created it. Since rats don't shoot at tractor units, and you can fit five of them confortably in your missioning battleship, the time to deploy it is not when you come back to salvage. It's when you first land on grid. (Or maybe after you initially move.) So, deploy the unit as soon as you land on grid. Bookmark it. Kill all the things, then do the next room. Come back in a few minutes and all your loot is collected, and all the wrecks in nice little ball.
It will also benefit mission-runners who currently do not salvage/loot. So long as you are in a room sitting still for more than 45 seconds, it can get you at least a little loot, and a little is better than zero. And possibly salvage too, if you have room for a flight of salvaging drones.
Salvaging will change radically. No longer does a salvager ship need to combine salvagers and tractors. It just needs salvagers. Noctises may still be useful in a more limited way. But I would expect to see a much larger set of ships being used to salvage, depending on the risk level. Noctises will still rule highsec, I expect. But not insecure space.
In wspace, this unit will obsolete the Noctis. Tractoring and salvaging will be concurrent with combat. Fleet warps in, immediately deploys 2-4 tractor units. PVE as normal. Wrecks are being sucked in as fast as they are created. Salvager ship with the fleet salvages the wrecks. Fleet has to wait a few extra seconds at the end of combat before warping, to guard the salvager. Or else, maybe the fleet just warps and the salvager takes its chances. But note that the salvager is not going to be a Noctis. It does not need tractor range; the tractor units provide that. It will be a hardened ship, probably a "combat" hull, perhaps stabbed up, with some salvagers in the highs. Since it can salvage throughout combat it does not even need that many salvagers.
My corp is still discussing what we will do. Partly it depends on details we don't know yet. But I think the broad outline is present. Currently, our salvager (a Noctis) trails the fleet; to maintain operation security we zip up, or we use observers on all the exits. In Rubicon, the salvager will be a Raven, Scorpion or some other battleship. (This gives it the option to mount a Micro Jump Drive for GTFO.) The salvager will now move with the fleet. We will deploy one or more tractors on grid, however many we need to gather all the wrecks in a timely manner. The salvager will have enough salvagers to salvage all the things; this may be as few as two salvagers. If say three or less, it can add DPS and will be used for that too.
Is it a conflict driver? I do think it will make the life of a mission ninja more fun. Imagine hanging around Osmon with combat probes, looking for these. You pop into the mission with your ninja salvager destroyer and find a nice ball. It's all there for you to salvage. No driving around. Then zip to the next room. Do you blow up the thing for loot? Maybe! Missioners might get wise and start to watch for their auto tractors disappearing from dscan though.
How about null and wspace? I am not as sanguine. In both places hunters will certainly look for them. And they might blow them up from time to time (certainly in wspace). Whether this will be opposed seems less likely. Meanwhile, at least in wspace they will kill one of the ganking types that keeps people on their toes: the Noctis salvager gank.
What will the economic effects be? If I could short tech I salvage, I would. And similarly for anything else that comes out of normal highsec mission grinding and nullsec anom smashing. Meta 1-4 parts.