Acoustics at the speed of light
Protecting borders, pipelines, underground cables and critical infrastructure against accidental damage or malicious attack is particularly demanding due to the distances involved and the scale of the challenge. Protection of essential services is also high on the political agenda.
Now QinetiQ, an international defence and security technology company, has risen to the challenge by launching OptaSense, a new buried cable fibre-optic sensor solution that detects multiple, simultaneous disturbances every ten metres over a 40km length of existing or installed optical fibre.
In border and perimeter security applications, anyone climbing, cutting or digging near the perimeter disturbs the fibre and generates an alarm. The OptaSense system then classifies the disturbance, provides the coordinates and cues other sensors, such as cameras, to ensure the operator instigates the appropriate response.
In cable and pipeline protection applications, any activity – such as the approach of a digger or the lifting of a manhole cover – generates an alarm. The system's acoustic sensitivity can also be used to listen to the flow through a pipe, so that blockages and leaks can be located.
"OptaSense is an excellent addition to QinetiQ's portfolio of sensor solutions," commented Mike O'Connor, Managing Director of QinetiQ Ventures. "It is equally applicable to detecting intruders in perimeter security applications as it is to monitoring mechanical failure in critical underwater infrastructure."
QinetiQ has teamed with Sensoptics Ltd, a UK-based company that is providing the fibre optic technology behind OptaSense.
Andrew Lewis, Managing Director of Sensoptics said: "This agreement with QinetiQ allows us to take our technology to next level by optimising it for new applications, integrating it with other sensors and reaching new markets."
The OptaSense system combines standard single mode optical fibre with control and analysis software that continuously monitors the entire fibre to detect, locate and categorise multiple, simultaneous disturbances. The high quality acoustic signature can also be monitored through headphones.
OptaSense is simple to install and simple to operate. The user interface displays the cause of the disturbance and alarms overlaid on a map, plan or aerial photograph to provide a clear visual indication of the position of the incident.