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Mark Tilbury, of Model World, Castle Road, Sittingbourne, appears in BBC's Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson

12 February 2014
by Hayley Robinson

The first episode of the series featured presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May attempting to prove the hatchbacks of their youth were better than their modern equivalents.

Mark Tilbury, owner of Model World Ltd, with his autographed photo of Top Gear stars

Mark Tilbury, owner of Model World Ltd, with his autographed photo of Top Gear stars

What some fans may not have known, though, is that the owner of a Sittingbourne business was the driving force behind one of the final scenes which was aired on BBC Two at 8pm on Sunday, February 2.

Viewers saw Clarkson flying a model aeroplane which was looking for May using an on board camera system.

But behind the scenes it was actually being controlled by Mark Tilbury, owner of Model World, which is based in Castle Road, Sittingbourne.

Mark Tilbury's Predator drone model

Mark Tilbury's Predator drone model

The married dad-of-one also built it – in just two days – before setting off to South Wales for filming, which took place in October last year.

He was accompanied on the trip by Dean Smith, general manager of the store.

Mr Tilbury, who would not be drawn on the cost, said: “They wanted it bespoke. It had to look like an American predator drone.

“I made it out of fibreglass, balsa wood and composite materials. Usually it takes about a month if you’re doing it in the evenings.

“It has a 2.5-metre wing span, weighs about 5kg, flies up to 60mph, is electric powered and has a three-axis gyro stabilisation system because it’s a hard plane to fly.

Autographed photo of Top Gear stars given to Mark Tilbury

Autographed photo of Top Gear stars given to Mark Tilbury

“The camera system inside is a GoPro Hero 3+ – a high-definition camera mounted on the front which transmits a first-pilot view down to the ground.

"I didn’t need it but they did for the footage. We’ve got the model here now because they did it on a hire basis.”

So what were the famous trio like in person? The 46-year-old said: “We met all three of them, and they’re just like they are on TV.

“We got to go and see the show in the studio. I also got them to sign a photo for my son Curtis. It was good fun.”

It is not Model World’s first claim to fame, though. Mr Tilbury said: “We built three Black Hawk helicopters which were worth tens of thousands of pounds each.

“I then flew them for the film Black Hawk Down, which was filmed in Morocco. We’re quite often used by film companies and TV advertisers.”

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