Synthesis Guide To Finding Crashed Ships

TL:DR (The very short version)

You need:

  1. A Good Planet (Lots of buildings, no water, gentle terrain, good weather)
  2. Patience - there’s no quick and easy method. Just ones that work, and ones that don’t.


Don’t bother with maps, transmission towers, or signal boosters. They’re unreliable, flawed, and frustrating.

Search in your ship, along a N-S compass line. Look for crashed ships on your radar. Fly low and slow. Take your time.

Full Text (The very long version)

First of all, I need to explain some concepts. By all means skip the long-winded stuff if you’re already familiar with it.

I need to introduce you to the concept of Alien Population Density.

In No Man’s Sky, there are at least three population levels a planet may be assigned - low, medium, and high. There used to be a fourth, “very high”, but that seems to have disappeared somewhere between Next and Beyond.

Each planet has a population level - the number of aliens who live there. It’s important to know this, because it’s directly linked to the number of crashed ships. The higher the population, the more crashed ships there will be.

You can tell the population level by the frequency (how many, and how close together) of certain buildings. Unfortunately, not all buildings count. The buildings we ARE interested in are:

  • Large Trading Posts
  • Small Trading Posts
  • Observatories
  • Transmitter Stations
  • Manufacturing Facilities (locked)
  • Operations Centres (locked)

For the remainder of this discussion, I will refer to these as “Occupied Buildings”. That’s my terminology, not official Hello Games nomenclature.

Other types of structure do not count towards population density. For the sake of illustration, I’ll list some. We are NOT interested in:

  • Habitation Huts
  • Abandoned Buildings
  • Ruins
  • Monuments
  • Monoliths
  • Drop Pods
  • Portals
  • Holo Towers

For the rest of this discussion, I will refer to these as “Unoccupied Buildings”. That’s my own, unofficial, terminology.

Planetary Geography

As far as I know, all occupied planets have some crashed ships. However, on many types of planet, you’ll struggle to find them.

You want to remove difficulties, and improve the odds in your favour. And that means choosing the right kind of planet in the first place. There’s no shortage of planets - pick a good one.

You will need to fly low and slow, and you will need to be able to see the ground well. You don’t want things that will obstruct your vision, flying, landing, or takeoff. So, in general, you want planets with:

  • Gentle, rolling hills,
  • Large, continuous areas of land,
  • Pleasant weather.

you should normally avoid planets with:

  • Severe or rugged geography, lots of mountains, chasms, or floating islands, giant plants.
  • Large areas of water,
  • Bad weather and/or frequent storms, particularly severe storms, weird lighting.


When setting out on a crashed ship hunting expedition, you need to consider a few things before you go.

Storage Space

Scrapping ships will rapidly fill up your available storage space. You need to free up inventory space before you go.

It is possible you will find a really high quality crashed ship, that you want to keep. If you do, you will need space in your ship collection inventory. Consider scrapping some of your lesser ships before you go, to create space.

Supplies For You

You may be travelling a long way. Make sure you have stocks of warp cells and launch fuel.

Supplies for Crashed Ships

All crashed ships are damaged when you find them. The minimum tech they require to fly is:

  • Shields (repair - 50 chromatic metal and 13 sodium nitrate)
  • Launch Thrusters (repair - 50 pure ferrite and 1 dihydrogen jelly)
  • Pulse Engine (repair - 1 hermetic seal and 1 metal plating)

If you’re going hunting crashed ships, you’ll want to take stocks of these materials along with you. The ship can’t be moved without them.

(actually, it sort of can - if you claim it, even without repair, it will still get transported to your freighter - but you’re going to have to repair it sometime - you can’t fly it otherwise.)


It is possible to search for crashed ships by using maps, transmitter stations, navigation data, and signal boosters. I advise you not to.

Hello Games have deliberately made the search frustrating. It’s a lot of messing about and bother, to then only have roughly a one in three chance of finding a crashed ship site. I use the word “site” deliberately - from the start, the first site you find will be empty. After that you will probably find two or three crashed ships, but then you will start finding empty sites again. This is because Hello Games’ search algorithm isn’t very good, and after a few searches it starts sending you back to sites you’ve already visited.

If you want to find crashed ships easily, reliably, and with the minimum wasted effort, the way to search is with your ship’s radar.

Ship’s Radar in Space

To search, fly at around 120 - 150 u/s. Assuming the average tree to be around 15 u in height, you should aim to fly at around 60 - 100 u altitude. These figures are just guidelines - they’re very flexible. you just don’t want to fly too high or too fast.

Choose A Direction

It’s very easy to get turned around, and end up searching the same area over and over. To avoid this, choose a compass direction (you’re only given N and S) and search along it.

Pick a compass direction, and follow it. Keep watching your radar. If you’ve picked the right planet, within 10 or 15 minutes you’ll see a crashed ship pop up on your radar.

A Crashed Ship Showing On Radar

The game has to render the ground below you as you approach it, and crashed ships won’t show up on your radar until they’ve rendered - so they often show up just as you’re level with them, or even a bit past them. That’s why you don’t want to fly too fast - you’d be too far away to see them by the time they rendered. You need to keep a sharp eye on your radar, and be quick to slow down and turn round when a ship is detected.

When your radar finds a ship, follow the trace, and land. Not all radar blips are crashed ships. Since Beyond, there are also damaged ships - these have a living pilot, and can only be repaired for a small reward - they can’t be taken.

If you don’t want to bother with damaged ship sites, you don’t have to land. You can generally tell from the air, because you can see the pilot. Even if you can’t see the pilot, damaged ship sites don’t have a distress beacon - all crash sites have a distress beacon.

All nearby ships show up on your radar. Sadly, this is not a bunch of crashed ships - it’s a large trading post.

Patience Is A Virtue

Be prepared to spend a lot of time searching. Even on a good planet, it’s sometimes possible to fly for 20 minutes without finding anything (although you can equally come across three within 1,000 metres - bang, bang, bang).

Create some interest for yourself. Make an expedition of your search - investigate some of the buildings and crashed freighters you pass, scan some wildlife and plants - just don’t forget which direction you were searching in.

However, if you have searched a new planet for 30 minutes, and have not found your first crashed ship, it’s probably time to move on to a new planet. Some planets are definitely better than others.

A Starter Suggestion

You can employ this method on any planet you like. However, to start off with, I suggest you try the following:

Warp to a couple of yellow star systems, and check out the planets until you find a frozen world with no surface water. Land, and check out the weather. If it’s OK, fly in a straight line for a few minutes, and check out the buildings. If you pass a reasonable number of occupied buildings, you can be fairly sure the planet is at least medium occupation level. If there’s anything doubtful about the planet, move on - find a better one. You don’t want to get dispirited.

Assuming you’ve found a planet that fits your requirements, then fly along a North-South line. Fly at roughly 150 u/s, at roughly 2-3 times treetop height. It’s not crucial, but don’t fly too fast or too high.

Keep checking your radar. Crashed ships often don’t show up until you’re level with, or even just past, them - so you need to react quickly when you spot one. They don’t stay on your radar for long when you’re moving.

If you haven’t found your first crashed ship within 30 minutes, you should probably assume you have a dud planet. Move on to another one, and try again.

That’s more than enough for now. If you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them.


I might add that low and slow is also a good way to see just how populated a planet is. If you fly too fast, buildings will not have time to render and will not show up on a scan. Flying slowly is key. Otherwise, you may abandon a planet thinking it is not very well populated.
Nice guide! :smiley:


Sweet guide! Articulate, succinct, and thorough. Thank you very much! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

Tip: For those searching on PC, since you can only slow down so much using the S key, you can (fortunately) hold down the R-mouse button and that will keep you moving steady and, comparatively, pretty slow.


Great guide. I found two ships last night thanks to this guide.

The most relevant bit is too keep an eye on the radar.

Thankfully you don’t have to be too eagle eyed - if you fly over a crash site, the radar will show the ship receding into the distance for a good 10-15 seconds, even at 190u/s.

I sure was getting tired of distress beacons leading to a site with no ship :rage: Just a shadow where the ship used to be //insert guitar jangling here//. So Polyphemus guide is the way to go.

Is it worth fixing the ship completely before selling? It’s sell price goes up, not to the full price, but you do get extra goodies in your inventory when you scrap it. Often quite expensive bits. Does the amount of goodies rise with more slots fixed? You can also sell the “upgrades” for nanites.

I did found one thing and that is that fixing all the slots doesn’t give a greater chance of getting an augmentation.


Well, 3 out of 3 ships found and they were all owned. I fixed them and then they were gone…


From what I have heard, A-Class and S-Class are pretty much guaranteed to give an augmentation when scrapped. B-Class and C-Class are more random although not sure if the odds between these two classes differ.


I find the disabled ships and their marooned pilots very annoying. They mess up my searches, and they make me feel guilty if I don’t help them. But if I do help them, and repair their ship, (often at considerable expense), they give me some paltry, worthless reward, then leave. Then I feel cheated and used.

It occurred to me that maybe I could kill them, and take their ship. So, after suitable saves, I tried.

Well, it turns out you can’t shoot them. If you aim a weapon at them, it won’t fire.

The only thing I found that came close was plasma balls. If you aim at the ground, roughly half way between them and you, you can roll a plasma ball right up to their feet.

Unfortunately, it has absolutely no effect on them. They don’t even get annoyed.

Oh well. Back to feeling guilty about not helping.


Very good information, thank you!
If you get in a pinch (don’t know why you would) or just feel like it, you can drop down a base computer, teleporter and power source for that to be able to teleport to a station without any repairs

Your method is obviously the superior way, faster and less complicated.


Thanks for the additional info and pics.

Also, for me, increasing resentment about feeling guilty.

Now I’m wondering if relogging on the spot changes anything, or if the pilot is always there.


I have just repaired another of those damaged ships.

Same as before, the pilot gave me a cheap, low-value reward. But I also got a message. I haven’t seen this one before.

It’s VERY interesting.


Intrigued by my last discovery, I made a point of investigating the next damaged ship I found.

It turns out, there’s a reason to help these guys. There’s lore attached to them. There’s a story to be discovered.

Hmmm. Should I tell you what happens next?

No, I don’t think I will.

You’ll have to find out for yourselves. :grinning:


This is a crashed ship. I found it, I repaired it, I flew it to the space station, and I scrapped it.

So what’s so special about that? We’ve been doing that for a week, haven’t we?

Well, yes. But what’s special is that this crashed ship is on the far side of a portal.

I travelled through a portal to a new planet. I flew around in my ship. I found NPC trader ships at the trading post. I found damaged ships with disgruntled pilots. And now I’ve found and scrapped a crashed ship. All on the other side of a portal.


My suspicion is …


that the “splat of poison” was from a monstrosity (one or more) They seem to be featured in this update more and more often.


Interesting. This is even more evidence that points to my upcoming villain theory.

Thank you for sharing your discovery.


I wasn’t looking for crashed ships. I decided a few days ago that actively searching for them was too frustrating. :slightly_smiling_face:

I was flying slowly just above ground, with an eye out for copper and paraffin deposits, on a temperate planet with occasional storms when I noticed a bright square appear on my radar. It was behind me.

Though I was on my way to obliterate a depot for a Nexus daily, I banked to would investigate just in case.

Turns out it was a B/27/8 crashed Explorer. No sign of a pilot. I grabbed it, deleted the couple of upgrades it had and transferred the resulting components to my Cargo hold. Then I jumped out without repairing it.

I didn’t want to mess up my mission so I jumped back into my fighter and left the Explorer there to pull to my freighter once my mission was completed.

Got a nice bundle of loot from it at the Starship Salvager, plus an augmentation upgrade module.

If it hadn’t been for this guide, @Polyphemus, I would probably have missed that tiny blip on my radar.

Thank you! :heart_eyes:


It’s just lying there. It’s free. Nobody owns it. Should I:

Keep it, repair it, and upgrade it?:

Or scrap it for lots of goodies?

Tough call…


Like I am going to fall for that. Then when you regret your decision, you can blame it on me, :smile:


Even harder decision. What to do with them all?

It’s a shame I can’t give them to people.

Oh well.

(edit) Perhaps I could give them to people.

If I put a beacon next to this thing, then find the portal address of this planet, someone else could come and take it.

PC normal mode only, I’m afraid.

Anyone willing to try, for the sake of scientific research?


I’d give it a go. :slightly_smiling_face:

Editing to add that I play with MP off, so the ship “should” be still there for others to find as well…

of course --FOR SCIENCE! :joy:


OK, beacon is in place. Portal address is in the bottom left of the picture. Let’s see what happens.

If I can’t see you, let me know how it worked out. :smiley: