Scouters are essentially remote-controlled reconnaissance drones that can enter other spaceships, spatial environments and the atmospheres of planetary bodies. Scouters have a wide range of sensing equipment, and are used for remotely scanning, observing and analyzing these places before any human crew go on an away mission.
The only scouter seen so far is the one used from Starbug in Series V, VI and VII, although the scouters aboard Red Dwarf itself are also mentioned and used by the crew in Series IV, VIII and Series X.
The Starbug scouter is a squat, three-footed device around four feet high. It could hover above ground and work in the vacuum of space, using its sensors and cameras to relay information back to the relative safety of Starbug.
The scouter was also equipped with a powerful cutting device, and small explosives, for penetrating the hulls and doors of vessels.
It was able to remotely access computer systems, and could be operated via a voice control system over radio link.
The Dwarfers used a Red Dwarf search probe to determine that the ocean moon they intended using for a fishing holiday was devoid of marine life. This did not dissuade them from going, since they only wanted to relax and drink Leopard Lager; they just wanted to leave Arnold Rimmer behind. ("Dimension Jump", Series IV)
When they picked up a distress signal coming from a nearby research lab, the gang from the Dwarf landed Starbug nearby and decided to perform a reconnaissance. Kryten ordered the Starbug scouter to be launched, which upset Rimmer greatly as he saw this simple task as his responsibility as the most senior surviving crewman. The Cat ignored Rimmer's order to "Launch scouter", only complying when Rimmer backed down and Kryten asked nicely. Rimmer was angered at the lack of respect for his authority.
The scouter returned the information that the facility was a medical research laboratory with one hologram occupant. It was unable to determine that the research was on dangerous viruses or that Dr. Hildegard Lanstrom was dangerously insane.
Later, when Starbug found itself in a asteroid belt that was also a spaceship graveyard, the crew used the scouter to determine why the ships had crashed. The first thing the scouter encountered was the body of a man who had used his own body parts to write a warning - PSIRENS. The scouter blasted its way onto several more ships and Dave Lister ordered it to access the black boxes. They showed that the local GELFs lured ships onto the asteroids and ate the crews's brains, such as with the Crazed Astro. ("Psirens", Series VI)
When the Cat was suffering from a libido-related illness, the others used the Starbug scouters to search Deep Space for any female Felis sapiens life-signs. The scouters found such a life-sign, aboard a Brefewino slave ship, which led the navicomp of the 'bug to the Brefewino planet. After rescuing Ora, Cat left with her in a scouter utilised as a Survival Pod, and mated with her which cured Cat of his illness. Shortly after, Cat dropped Ora off at an unseen S3 planet with some other cats from the Cat Arks, which had presumably also been discovered by the scouters. Cat elected to stay with the Starbuggers in the end, reappearing and asking for a tuna bake, now that he had his pounce back. ("Identity Within", Series VII)
Captain Hollister of the nanobot-recreated Red Dwarf employed a search probe to explore the submerged SSS Silverberg. The search probe returned the information that there was no sign of any crew or their bodies, so Hollister sent in his expendable convict army from The Tank, the Canaries, to determine what had happened. ("Cassandra", Series VIII)
Red Dwarf also used the scouter to search the surrounding space for interesting objects. It returned the coordinates of a derelict Space Corps vessel, the SS Trojan. The Dwarfers were able to salvage the Trojan and claim it as their own vessel when Howard Rimmer beamed aboard. ("Trojan", Series X)
When scouters brought back information to Red Dwarf that a nearby moon had humanoid life, Lister was excited and took a Starbug down to investigate, hoping that it may have been Kochanski. The planet however turned out to be the BEGG moon, and Lister spent the night getting drunk on GELF Hooch and playing poker, during which he lost Starbug and Rimmer to the BEGGs. ("Entangled", Series X)
- The Starbug probe is most frequently referred to as a "scouter", whilst the Red Dwarf probe is most frequently referred to a "search probe". Only the former has been seen, but the latter has not. It is likely that these are the same technology, and "search probe" simply be another term for a "scouter". However, given that the Red Dwarf search probe has not been seen, it is possible that it may be a different technology to the 'bugs scouter.
- The Red Dwarf Starbug playset contains a Scouter probe that can be fired away from Starbug.