Imagine an invisible line stretching along the Mexican border. Any person or vehicle that crosses the line trips a signal that tells authorities exactly where you are.
Such a system is well underway at Texas A&M University. They're called intrusion sensors.
Henry Taylor is a Professor of Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M and says right now these sensors could replace radars and infrared cameras.
"This will be a different way to do security. Where you have a distributed sensor that's buried underground, its covert, so intruders can't know its there, but more importantly it's a lot cheaper than any other way to monitor long perimeters," says Taylor.
The sensors could help monitor the border between the U.S. and Mexico. It's one of its most practical applications.
The sensors could be critical in protecting not only our borders, but military bases and nuclear power plants.
Juan Juarez is a graduate student who's been assisting on the project for the last few years. He says these fiber optic cables buried underground have a level of appeal because they're not as intrusive.
"We try to characterize how sensitive the sensor is and how many feet away from the line can you actually detect the sensor and how repeatable is it," says Juarez.
The concept of the sensor was researched in the early 90s, but the lasers were not stable enough to work. As new technology began to emerge, the project moved forward.
"We can't actually bury several miles out there, so what we do is we simulate a sensor by having two very long lengths of fiber in the lab and bury some short lengths outside. For example, we have 50 meters buried outside and inside we have two kilometers and tank kilometers around it," says Juarez.
"We've talked with large aero-space companies with sensor companies. I think everyone appreciates this is something really new and different, but it is gonna take some development," says Taylor.
According to A&M Researchers, the product is expected to be out on the field within the year.