He’s only just finished high school, but Thomas Bitmatta is already a world title-winning drone racer.
The 18-year-old from Melbourne hit the big time last year when he edged out more than 300 of the world’s top drone fliers to win the MultiGP International Open in the US.
Bitmatta is on a winning streak, having also taken top honours at drone competitions in Brisbane and Adelaide last year, and has turned to the fledgling sport to forge a career.
First-person view (FPV) drone racing is fast and furious. Pilots use goggles to get a view of their drone as they steer it through a maze of obstacles.
“If you can kind of imagine a race car-style course, and it’s got slowing corners, slaloms, all that kind of thing, but then it’s three-dimensional also. So you can be going up, down, changing everything,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“It really becomes this game of managing a 3D air space and the energy that your quad [drone] has, and that really makes it challenging but also really, really fun.”
Bitmatta, from Roxburgh Park in Melbourne’s north, has been accepted to study mechatronics but will defer for a year to travel the world — particularly the US — racing drones.
He’ll now be able to give the sport his full attention after having to fit in hours of practice with the demands of school.
“In Year 12, pretty quickly I figured out how high the workload was going to ramp up so I pretty much had to learn how to schedule things,” he said.
“I made this schedule where I could use my recesses and lunch times to get more homework done and then I would either get to the end of the day to do maybe an hour-long flight or at the end of the week I could do maybe a day-long session.
“I think a big thing for me was just how much I enjoyed the flying.”
Bitmatta will head to Florida this month to compete in the first US competition of the season.
His father Paul, a former Boeing engineer, travels with him to races around the world.
Paul said his son could earn enough to live on with sponsorship, prize money and work with drone television production in the US.
“Two years ago I would have said ‘you’re crazy’,” he said.
“I remind him how lucky he is.”