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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 thread on Reddit looking for help. 

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

Sachiti has posted anonymously, but the Redditors quickly figured out it was him. Britain only ever built five of the Type 84s and Redditors were able to figure out where this one was located using some open source intelligence tools. Also, Sachiti’s purchase of the old RAF base and the tower were a news story in Britain.

Sachiti said he’s gotten responses from a few people who want to use it to scan the Moon. In the thread itself someone asked him why he bought the thing. “Because I convinced myself it may be good fun to use to attempt to find UFOs?” He replied.

Sachiti told me that the reply was a bit of a joke, but that other people had seriously reached out to him about using the machine to look for unidentified flying objects. “There’s obviously the UFO hunters,” he said. “It’s not for me to decide what the best use in the modern world is for it. So long as it doesn’t harm and it’s not intrusive…I’ve got the tech…let’s give it a life.”

I asked him what he thought about the wealth of new evidence about UFOs and the possibility of alien in life in general. He said it’s possible aliens are already among us, but that they’re so much more advanced than humans as to be beyond their consideration. “The reason it doesn’t concern me too much is there’s been all this time and there’s not been actionable information,” he said. “If an ant decided to contact humans, would we even know…these UFOs, if there is  some sort of intelligence behind them, well they’ve ignored us for the most part.”

I reached out to Sachiti through Reddit and was able to get him on Zoom. We chatted while he sat in a solar powered bus on the RAF base grounds. The Type 84 loomed in the background behind some trees and he was able to walk his laptop out there so I could see it. 

“So it’s sitting there but because there was nobody here for a while, it was slowly beginning to degrade,” he said. “And to me, every time I’ve looked at it, I just thought, ‘Something’s got to be done.’”

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

But the purchase came with more than just space he needed. The Type 84 is what’s called a Grade II listed building. That means it’s considered a historical monument of significant cultural value to the country and its history and can’t be demolished.

Sachiti said seeing the thing everyday made him sad. He wanted to fix it up. “It’s more about breathing new life into something that otherwise would have slowly fallen into disrepair,” he said. “Let’s give it some sort of life again because it’s magnificent.”

The AMES Type 84 radar unit is a Cold War era relic. The five radar units were part of an early warning system meant to alert the British military if nukes 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 finished, it used to spin like four times a minute,” he said. “Whenever it does a scan every TV [in the area] for about three seconds would just be static.”

Sachiti said he wants to get the thing spinning again, but will leave the ionizing radiation behind. The bus he’s sitting in when we’re chatting once ran on diesel, he said, and now runs on solar power. 

“We’ve got to find a way to apply modern tech, to give it some sort of life,” he said. His initial thought was to find experts who could help him get it up and running again. “The stuff we needed a giant room for in the 1960s, we can now make small desktop sized devices and power some of it.”

Why use Reddit to find people to help? “As you can see in the thread, you find people that are so specific and they’ll tell you exactly how it works,” he said. “If I put an ad out in the paper, I’d never get that level of talent. Even an ad on TV…What I like about Reddit is that you can post in a very specific subreddit where people who geek out and make stuff like this experiment with it,” he said. “And my inbox has been inundated with absolute experts…that’s the beauty of asking the right question to the right audience.”

Where might it lead? Sachiti isn’t quite sure, but he believes that something good can come of upgrading the heritage site. “Given time, perhaps universities or students will login and use it to do whatever scan they need,” he said.

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