A fiberscope is a cable that is made of fiber optic material. This material allows light to travel very efficiently through the cable. A fiberscope typically has a lens on one end, and is connected to an eyepiece for easy viewing. This combination allows them to be threaded or snaked into tight spaces, while a user can observe objects or people on the other end of the scope.
The fiber optic material used to create a fiberscope is usually built from an extremely transparent glass called silica. This silica acts as a "waveguide," which means that light waves tend to propagate throughout the length of cable with very little loss of clarity. Strands of fiber optic cable are often as thin as a human hair. As a result, several individual optic strands are usually bundled together to form the core of a fiberscope.
Most of these cables employ a wide-angle lens at one end. This lens captures the light from a large area and focuses it onto the small diameter of the cable bundle. The viewing end of a scope can be linked to a simple eyepiece, or connected to a camera to capture remote images. Due to the many small optical fibers that are found in a scope, users usually experience some image distortion. This distortion is similar to the "pixelation" effect found when viewing a television screen at a very close distance.
A fiberscope often relies on visible light or an external light source. Some scopes, however, contain special fibers that transmit light from the user toward the end of the cable. This allows a scope to be used in dark areas that cannot be easily illuminated. If a an infrared (IR) camera is connected to a fiberscope, IR light can be sent through the optic cables and the viewer can illuminate a scene without being detected.
These cables have a variety of practical uses. They can be used for espionage purposes, and allow people to covertly observe an area. The small size of a scope enables it to be threaded through a ceiling tile or door crack, and permit surveillance teams to gain important information during a hostage situation or standoff. Fiberscopes are also useful for locksmithing and safecracking, as operators can watch the inner workings of a mechanism in order to open a lock.
Fiber optic scopes are also useful in medical settings. A fiberscope that is used to see inside the body is often called an endoscope. These viewing devices are helpful for doctors who need to check a body area for blockage or injury. Endoscopes allow surgeons to gain insight into a medical situation without making a large incision, and can help reduce the damage caused by invasive procedures.