Distributed strain sensors based on Brillouin scattering in optical fibers are attractive as structural monitoring systems due to their unmatched measurement flexibility. Despite their potential, very little research has been conducted on these sensors under the types of conditions that would be experienced in practical applications. This paper presents the results of a simple study in which a Brillouin sensor was used to measure the strain along the length of a cantilever beam subjected to two loading patterns. A spatial resolution of 400 mm was used to perform the measurements and a precision of approximately plus or minus 50 (mu) (epsilon) was achieved. The experimental results were found to be in excellent agreement with theoretical predictions, demonstrating that this type of sensor system is well suited to use in structural monitoring applications.© (1999) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.