Protecting and monitoring borders brings a unique set of problems – not least the potentially huge distances to cover, challenges of providing infrastructure and power, the time criticality of alert and response, challenges posed by preventive maintenance requirements, and the need for constant monitoring.
Innovative Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) technology from QinetiQ company OptaSense offers a new value proposition to the border challenge. Already proven in, and revolutionising, the Oil and Gas industry, DAS is now being used to secure borders around the world. It optimises real-time situational awareness by detecting threats on, below and above the ground before they come within damaging range, allowing incidents to be prevented.
Borne out of military sonar technology, DAS is able to convert existing standard single mode fibre-optic cable into thousands of highly sensitive acoustic sensors – . Acoustic signatures from activities can be detected at 10m increments along the border, to cover 1000s of km of border, unaffected by weather, darkness or interference.
DAS discriminates between multiple threats – aircraft, gunfire, digging, vehicles and personnel – and different levels of zoning alerts can be set. Once a threat is detected DAS can cue other border protection systems, such as UAVs and alert patrols through smartphone mapping alerts to pin-point the threat. The system also has forensic capture and analysis capability for post-processing and optimisation of complementary border monitoring systems and operations.
Whole life costs are especially low because DAS requires effectively no preventative maintenance, is covert and thus less prone to attack, has very long mean time between failure (MTBF) levels, uses minimal infrastructure, can utilize existing fibre optic cable, and requires minimal power.
The technology is proving effective in meeting diverse demands and situations – including securing a fence or perimeter, monitoring long and sometimes wide border zones where other technologies fall short, monitoring traffic routes to and from the border, and protecting forward facilities and remote bases on the border.