A new model-based technique for fast estimation of the pedestal electron density gradient has been developed. The technique uses ordinary mode polarization profile reflectometer time delay data and does not require direct profile inversion. Because of its simple data processing, the technique can be readily implemented via a Field-Programmable Gate Array, so as to provide a real-time density gradient estimate, suitable for use in plasma control systems such as envisioned for ITER, and possibly for DIII-D and Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak. The method is based on a simple edge plasma model with a linear pedestal density gradient and low scrape-off-layer density. By measuring reflectometer time delays for three adjacent frequencies, the pedestal density gradient can be estimated analytically via the new approach. Using existing DIII-D profile reflectometer data, the estimated density gradients obtained from the new technique are found to be in good agreement with the actual density gradients for a number of dynamic DIII-D plasma conditions. Published by AIP Publishing.