Fiber optic technology uses pulses of light travelling through glass or plastic fibers to transmit information. The technology provides a number of advantages over traditional copper wiring, including higher bandwidth and data transfer speeds. Fiber optic communication is also immune to the electromagnetic and radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI) that can affect regular cabling.
Fiber optic cables are smaller and lighter than copper cables. They are, however, more expensive, and require more protection due to the fragility of the individual fibers inside the cable. Fiber optic cabling is manufactured in two primary types – single-mode and multi-mode.
Single-mode fibers have smaller diameters and force the light into a smaller beam, resulting in less attenuation, and can be used for longer distances.
Multi-mode fibers have a larger core and allow multiple pulses to be sent through the cable at once, allowing more data transmission but increasing the potential for attenuation.
Fiber optic cabling with connectors at either end are known as fiber optic patch cords or patch cables, and enable rapid and easy connection and disconnection between different subsystems of pieces of equipment.
Optical signals can be transmitted across the interface between stationary parts and continuously rotating components such as turrets, UAV gimbals and antennas via use of fiber optic rotary joints (FORJs). Available in a variety of configurations, FORJs provide a 360-degree connection for power, signals and data.
As modern UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and drones handle more and more data from HD cameras and other sensors, and share information through increasingly large networks, FO technology has seen increased usage.
Higher bandwidth, faster transfer speeds and lower size and weight of fiber optic technology make it highly suited to many UAV platforms.
As well as internal cabling for UAVs, fiber optics may be used for tethered drones, providing a high-speed way to transfer data captured by the UAV’s cameras and sensors to the ground.
They may also be used to interface a UAV ground control station with its antenna, allowing the antenna to be placed some distance away from the station itself.
Underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicle) tethers, particularly those that stream HD video in real time incorporate FO technology. These cables will need to be reinforced to withstand drag forces, and both cables and fo connectors will need to be rated to the appropriate pressure found at the depths that the vehicle will be working at.
Fiber optics technology is also found in fiber optic gyroscopes (FOGs), which measure rate of rotation via the interference of light beams passing through a coil of optical fiber.