A tech millionaire bought a giant Cold War radar to ‘find UFOs’

British tech entrepreneur William Sachiti had been living and working in the abandoned Royal Air Force (RAF) air defense radar station for about three months when he posted a wire on Reddit looking for help.

“Help! I want to bring this to life,” he said in an /r/electronics post that featured a photo of a gigantic AMES Type 84 radar. It’s a massive dish, 60 feet wide and 25 feet tall, which sits on a pedestal, it pumped out microwaves over a range of 250 miles and nearby signs warned of ionizing radiation.

Sachiti posted anonymously, but Redditors quickly figured out it was him. Britain has only ever built five of the Type 84s and Redditors were able to determine where this one was using open source intelligence tools. Additionally, Sachiti’s purchase of the former RAF base and tower was a new stories in Great Britain.

Sachiti said he had received responses from a few people who wanted to use it to scan the Moon. In the thread itself, someone asked him why he bought the thing. “Because I’ve convinced myself that it can be a lot of fun to use in an attempt to find UFOs?” He has answered.

Sachiti told me the response was a bit of a joke, but that other people had approached him seriously about using the machine to search for unidentified flying objects. “There are obviously UFO hunters,” he said. “It’s not for me to decide what is the best use of it in the modern world. As long as it doesn’t hurt and it’s not intrusive…I have the technology…let’s give it a life.

I asked him what he thought of the wealth of new evidence on UFOs and the possibility of extraterrestrial life in general. He said it’s possible aliens are already among us, but are so much more advanced than humans that they are beyond their consideration. “The reason it doesn’t concern me too much is that it’s been all this time and there’s been no actionable information,” he said. “If an ant decided to contact humans, would we even know…those UFOs, if there’s some kind of intelligence behind them, well, they ignored us for the most part.”

I contacted Sachiti via Reddit and was able to get her on Zoom. We chatted while he sat in a solar-powered bus on the grounds of the RAF base. The Type 84 stood in the background behind some trees and he was able to walk his laptop there for me to see.

“So it’s sitting there, but because there was nobody here for a while, it was slowly starting to go downhill,” he said. “And for me, every time I watched it, I just thought, ‘Something has to be done. “”

Sachiti is a roboticist and artificial intelligence entrepreneur whose company Kar-go uses self-driving cars to deliver parcels across Britain. He told me he bought the base because he needed land for testing and development. There were factories, roads and underground bunkers. “Almost everything we needed as a company,” he said.

But the purchase came with more than just the space it needed. The Type 84 is what is called a Grade II listed monument. This means that it is considered a historical monument of significant cultural value for the country and its history and cannot be demolished.

Sachiti said seeing the thing every day made him sad. He wanted to fix it. “It’s more about breathing new life into something that would otherwise have slowly fallen apart,” he said. “Let’s give it some life because it’s beautiful.

The AMES Type 84 radar unit is a relic of the Cold War era. The five radar units were part of an early warning system intended to alert the British Army if nuclear weapons were on the way. They operated from 1962 to 1994 and used microwaves which pumped out an impressive amount of ionized radiation. “So there was a time when this thing was done, it was spinning about four times a minute,” he said. “Every time it scans every TV [in the area] for about three seconds would just be static.

Sachiti said he wanted to spin the thing again, but would leave the ionizing radiation behind. The bus he is sitting in when we chat was once diesel-powered, he said, and is now solar-powered.

“We have to find a way to apply modern technology, to give it some kind of life,” he said. His initial idea was to find experts who could help him get it going again. “Things that we needed a giant room to do in the 1960s, now we can make small devices the size of a desktop computer and power some of it.”

Why use Reddit to find people to help? “As you can see in the feed, you find people who are so specific and they’ll tell you exactly how it works,” he said. “If I put an ad in the paper, I would never have that level of talent. Even a TV commercial… What I love about Reddit is that you can post to a very specific subreddit where people having fun and doing things like this experience it,” said he declared. “And my inbox was flooded with absolute experts…that’s the beauty of asking the right question to the right audience.”

Where could this lead? Sachiti isn’t entirely sure, but he thinks something good can come from upgrading the heritage site. “Over time, maybe universities or students will log on and use it to do whatever analysis they need,” he said.

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