Ashley Ellefson is director of operations at Drone Racing League. As a 2017 Connect Sports Game Changer, Ellefson discusses her passion for sports tourism.
What I do: I lead the operations team at Drone Racing League. We are responsible for delivering and producing all DRL races from start to finish; this includes defining the race calendar, working with cities to find venues across the globe, designing and constructing one-of-a-kind 3-D courses, and ensuring everything runs on time and on budget.
How I got here: I love the challenge of creating an event from scratch and figuring out how to solve problems that are completely new. After spending five years at Tough Mudder in event production and building its events from the ground up, the time came to find a new challenge. When I first learned about DRL and the ambition of our CEO/founder, Nicholas Horbaczewski, to develop a new sport, I knew I had to be involved and immediately jumped at the opportunity.
Why I am a game changer: DRL has brought drone racing to the forefront of entertainment and is rapidly transforming FPV racing into a mainstream sport. While DRL is watched by millions of fans on the world’s best sports programs, we are also developing the league into a thrilling spectator sport for the masses. To evolve DRL into a spectator sport, I started working with sports commissions and CVBs from Day One to host DRL events. I made valuable relationships with event leaders, helping DRL to work with diverse host cities like Hamilton, Ohio; Detroit; and Fitchburg, Massachusetts. I’ve seen great success in shifting mindsets about how a new event can help generate local economic impact through on-the-ground operations and add ongoing value for a community through global TV exposure and PR.
My greatest career accomplishments: The two I’m most proud of are building operations and defining a new event experience for both DRL and Tough Mudder, and developing safety procedures and processes that led DRL to being recognized by the White House and Civil Aviation Authority (U.K. aviation authority) as the standard for safety in drone racing.
Impressive stats: I cut event-operating expenses by 20 percent from year one to year two for DRL races and developed partnerships with host cities to achieve $80,000 in contributions and value in-kind for DRL’s first season.
What I’m working on: More than 2,000 fans experienced the DRL Allianz World Championship 2017 race live at London’s Alexandra Palace, marking our first of many spectator events with a large audience. I’m also excited to be working with our tech ops team to develop a bespoke race control platform for DRL races, which will allow us to increase our heat turnaround time, improve safety measures and track drones live around the course line.
What I do outside of work: Yoga and meditation are a big part of my daily life. I also love cooking and going to the farmers market.