Researchers perform aerial environmental sensing over 524km

Created January 31, 2023
Applications and Research

In a new field trial, researchers have shown that a real-time coherent transceiver prototype can be used for continuous sensing over a 524km live network aerial fibre wound around high-voltage power cables suspended from outdoor poles.

In the new work, the researchers used a field-programmable gate array coherent transceiver sensing prototype for continuous fibre sensing by using information extracted from the coherent DSP. They used the DSP-based timing recovery module as a time-of-flight sensor. Using this approach, the researchers continuously monitored a 524-km length of aerial fibre for 70 hours using time-of-flight measurements. They correlated the sensing measurements with temperatures acquired from stations along the network link.

The analysis revealed strong oscillations driven by polarisation changes over 50Hz, likely from the Faraday effect induced by the spun fibre. They demonstrated polarisation sensing of various wind conditions by filtering out the low-frequency portion of these polarisation changes. The results show that coherent transceivers could potentially be used to perform continuous sensing over aerial fibres, making it possible to perform both environmental and network sensing using existing aerial fibres.

Researchers say that by monitoring polarisation changes in the light traveling through a fibre link, this approach could enable new environmental or current sensing types. It can also be used to improve network integrity by continuously monitoring the health of the fibre link, for example, by detecting increases in fibre length that might indicate a pole is starting to tilt.

Nokia Bell Labs’ Mikael Mazur, who will present the new findings at OFC commented, “Optical fibres are everywhere, and if we can expand the use of this infrastructure to create a dense worldwide spanning mesh of environmental sensors, these communication systems can play an even bigger role in our daily life. Sensing transceivers can prevent service interruption and improve our understanding of the environment by significantly scaling the number of sensors without the cost of a dedicated sensing system. Most importantly, this can be done without any loss in data throughput, enabling full use of the communication system for its intended purpose.”

“We are just scratching the surface of potential applications and will continues to perform field trials over various networks in different environments,” he added. “Our goal is to better understand how this sensor can be used in future smart cities to improve the resilience of both communication systems and infrastructure, while getting a better understanding of the environment around us. We are also actively looking at algorithms for real-time analytics and autonomous decision-making based on transceiver sensing data, enabling early-warning applications.”

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This article was written
by Peter Dykes

Peter Dykes is a independent telecoms and technology journalist who has over that last 30 years written for a wide range of B2B publications and companies. A former BT engineer, he specialises in networks and associated support systems. He is currently Editor of Optical Connections.