Spotter Radars vs Fiber-based Fencing

A Cost and Benefit Analysis of Different Perimeter Security Systems
June 4, 2024 by
Spotter Global, David Garrett

When making a decision about perimeter security, it is important to note that no one solution will fit every concern. Different sensors and deterrence measures favor different environments and security needs. Security experts agree that, when it comes to the security of high-value private properties and critical infrastructure sites, a multi-layered approach using many sensors and systems is needed to provide quality perimeter protection. 

Such multi-layered security plans are best formulated to include well-thought-out responses to threats based on multiple scenarios. The thorough consideration of such scenarios that will illuminate the suitability of different security measures to the site’s needs. As customers try to understand the cost and benefits of ground-based surveillance radars compared to fiber-based fence security systems they should carefully consider a range of relevant factors, including cost, integration compatibility, maintenance requirements, and their site’s specific needs.

It's also important to note that technology is constantly evolving. As such, it's essential to stay updated on the latest advancements in perimeter security systems. In the face of any security concern, it is advisable for clients to conduct their own research and avail themselves of the most up-to-date information, so they may be able to make informed decisions based on their specific and most current needs, budgets, and environmental concerns.

What are Fiber-based Fence Security Systems?

Fiber-based fence security systems are a type of perimeter security system that uses fiber optic cables embedded in a fence to detect any disturbances or breaches. These systems work by monitoring the vibrations and changes in the light transmission signals that constantly pass along inside the fiber optic cables. When an intruder tries to climb, cut, or tamper with the fence, the fiber optic system can detect the disturbance and trigger an alarm or alert. This technology is highly sensitive and can provide real-time monitoring of the perimeter, making it an effective security solution for high-security facilities. 

A typical fence-mounted fiber optic sensor system will run the length of the fence line and will be divided up into zones, giving monitoring personnel a relatively good idea of where a breach (or attempted breach) has taken place in the event of a disturbance. Each fiber terminates into a Sensor Unit where incursions are sensed. From there, alarm/disturbance alert signals are transmitted to a network manager and displayed on the main security system which can be a Video Management System (VMS), Security Management System (SMS), or Physical Security Information Management System (PSIM). The fibers can also be buried, installed on a wall top, or along a pipeline.  

What are Ground-Based Surveillance Radars?

Ground-based surveillance radars are a key component of many perimeter security systems. These radars use radio waves to detect and track moving objects within a specific area. They provide real-time information on potential threats approaching the perimeter, allowing security personnel to respond quickly and effectively even prior to an actual breach. 

Ground-based surveillance radars are often used in conjunction with other sensors and systems to create a comprehensive security solution. They are highly effective in detecting intruders in all weather conditions and can cover large areas with a high degree of accuracy for a fraction of the cost.  

Many surveillance radars including Spotter Global’s ground surveillance radars easily integrate with most common PTZ cameras which allows for tracking of a target (intruder) with both the radar and the camera. In times when a camera, due to inclement weather, is not effective, the radar will still track the target with precision accuracy and classify whether the target is a person, vehicle, or animal. The classification of a target is done by neural AI in the Spotter NetworkIO interface unit. 

Additionally, the radar system can be set up to define certain areas of concern, creating customized alarm zones wherein if suspicious activity is detected specific alarm responses are triggered. An example might be an alarm zone along a fence line where, if a vehicle stops briefly in that area an alarm is triggered but if a vehicle passes smoothly by without stopping no alarm is triggered.

Surveillance radars can detect, alert on, and track targets well in advance of a target getting close to the fence. They will also continue to track targets as they approach, interact with, and/or pass through the fence line as well as after a breach as a target continues on to move through the site. Additionally, radars can be used to track targets on water where fence lines are not possible.  

Compact Radar vs. Fence Sensors and Break Beam Sensors

Both fence sensors and break beam sensors provide the same basic functionality of point detection, which means an alarm is triggered only upon touching or “breaking” the line. These systems work well for point detection in and around perimeters but have a number of drawbacks compared to radar-based security:

  1. Fence and break beam sensors often require complex and extensive installations, with installation costs often amounting to just as much or more than the original purchase price of the equipment. Buried fiber installation is especially labor intensive and requires trenching everywhere the fiber is to be laid. Also, once installed, these security measures are not as flexible to site changes as radar-based measures. 
  2. Fence and break beam sensors do not give any advanced warning of intrusion attempts. They signal when someone is on the fence and not before. In contrast, the surveillance radars can provide several minutes of advanced warning prior to an intruder reaching the fence, giving operators crucial extra minutes to notify and engage response teams or activate other deterrence measures.
  3. Fence and break beam sensors give you only one opportunity to detect the intruder. On sites where there are only fiber-based fences, once an intruder has passed the fence there are no more detection points. In contrast, a surveillance radar tracks the intruder throughout its field of view, giving constant updates to the operator of the intruder’s position both inside and outside the fence line.
  4. Fence and break beam sensors do not provide exact locations, only sectors. This makes cueing a PTZ camera directly to the target difficult, and if cueing is implemented it is only to general preset areas rather than to the targets themselves. Compact surveillance radars, such as those provided by Spotter Global, provide real-time GPS coordinates of the intruder, updated every second, allowing cameras to be cued to follow the intruder as they move.
  5. Fence and break beam sensors only provide one-point detection which does not allow for behavioral filters such as track duration and distance traveled measures to be used to mitigate nuisance alarms. In contrast, compact surveillance radars are able to filter detections based on behavior such as distance traveled, speed, direction, and track duration. Such filtering options help keep nuisance alarms, whether due to local wildlife, foliage movement, or non-threatening foot traffic, to a minimum.

Spotter Global Compact Radar vs. Fence Sensors: A Pricing Case Study

Because the pricing of systems as well as the specific security needs of a site can vary greatly, it is nearly impossible to do an exact price analysis between Spotter Global radars and fiber-based fence systems. However, for a rough estimate, a case study based on the quoted price of a fiber-based fence system for a nuclear power plant is represented below.

Fiber Fence Scenario

The perimeter fence line of this power plant site is estimated at 1,615 meters. The use of fiber fencing on this site would provide intrusion detection strictly at the fence line itself, only producing an alert when and if there is an ongoing attempted breach at the fence. 

The quoted price of materials for a fiber-based fence system was $246,020. This did not include labor or the actual cost of the physical fence.   

Spotter Radar Scenario

In this Spotter Global example utilizing the Spotter Radar systems, there are two options:

Option One: Spotter Global would install enough radars to cover the entire perimeter of the site along with the approaches to the fence line. Radars, NetworkIO, mounts, cables, and licenses would be priced at less than $109,000.  

Option Two: In addition to everything included in Option One, this option would include additional approach visibility, tracking on land and water, and internal tracking for a large area of the site inside of the fence line. This option would be less than $190,000.


Fiber-based fence systems and compact surveillance radar both have a great deal to offer perimeter security. Both are relied upon in the protection of high-value assets and may be relied upon to detect active perimeter breaches. 

Overall however, compact surveillance radars offer better ROI (return on investment) by virtue of their comparatively lower up-front and installation costs, extended surveillance capabilities that track targets inside and outside property lines, ability to filter out nuisance alarms, integrate more precisely with PTZ cameras, and operate according to site-customized alarm zones. 

Customers are encouraged to carefully review their site layout, budget, and the industry’s most recent technological and threat environment developments to create a site-customized, multi-layered security plan suited to their site’s specific needs. Consider well and, in the meantime, stay safe. 

Spotter Global, David Garrett June 4, 2024
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