I did a quick Forum Search for Shuttles and didn't find any recent posts similar to this one, if there was one then I am sorry.
Anyway, I have some general questions and ideas about shuttles in general. We all know shuttles will be available, simply because there will be times it's needed. However, what I don't understand is what would a versatile vessel be limited as a backup to transporters?
What I envision for shuttles is that they perform certain roles depending on duty and mission. For a Science Officer they could be used to autopilot scan and return, or be taken control of manually and taken out to explore certain phenomenon. Where as anyone could schedule a free Shuttle for trasportation for leave. I kind of picture shuttles being used as a mid-range vessel that could perform a multitude of tasks for a starship. It could even be used as a weapon, set a warp-capable shuttle on a path directly into an enemy vessel and override it's saftey features. Though that is unlikely it is one possibility.
I think shuttles will be primarily used by the Science Classes though. I mean Science Officers could use one both while on duty for various tests while exploring or they could use it for trying to prove one of their pet projects (that's another idea I have that I will tac on at the end of this post). The other uses of shuttles will be learning flight controls for non-flight commissioned officers, transportation, light exploration and ect.
Pet Projects or a type of Hobby or Activity should be included in character creation with different benefits. For example say you are an Astrometrics Science Officer with a degree in Advanced Singularity (Black Hole) Physics, well then you should be able to develop and "find" a pet project during the course of your adventure that are randomly assigned to people via the server. If this is infeasible as I think it might be (unfortunately) then perhaps a Hobby or Expertise feature should be added. A hobby would sever to boost certain Personality and Skill points. Fencing would be one example, another would be say Musical Instruments, or Art. While Expertise would be used to gain Professional Skills, and possibly aid in Ranking Up (as Ranking should be dynamic but not impossible).