back to article DARPA to begin mysterious 'Project GANDALF'

The renowned US military ultratech agency, DARPA*, is about to begin work on a mysterious new piece of surveillance and tracking kit known only as "Project Gandalf". According to the initial announcement (pdf) regarding an industry briefing for contractors who might be interested, the details of the Gandalf programme are …


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  1. Arnold Lieberman

    The BBC could make some money

    Sending over those old TV detector vans that could detect a purr at 100 yards (from the Ministry of Housinge).

  2. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Open Sourcery?

    "the details of the Gandalf programme are classified "SECRET/NOFORN" (meaning no non-Americans are allowed to know about it, and even US citizens will need a security clearance)."

    Thus nobbling/restricting the programme to American [Military] Intelligence, which has a proven, less than stellar record in joining up the dots. Although, being a Continent of Immigrants, I suppose that does allow a global flexibility to "poach" the best of the best anywhere for their Virtual Dream Machine/DARPA/IARPA, should they be so minded.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh No !

    The situation in the US has become so serious that DARFTA has been reduced to projects that are actually quite feasible and useful.

    Tough times indeed

  4. breakfast

    Difficult equipment to test...

    The problem with ensuring this kind of equipment works is that if you try to test it you shall not pass.

  5. TimM

    Easy to deal with...


    He'll sort him out. Either that or sit down and sing about bloody gold!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    I was worried they would try this....

    A while back you may have reported about celldar - the ability to tack a moving object by tracking the changes in cell tower radio reflections on the object. Feel the cell force so to speak.

    Now it would be very hard to do this well with even with lots of high tech kit right now. Following someone in the desert would be trivial, being the only thing moving, but try the same in NYC and well... (why else was the taliban so eager to shutdown cell towers at night??)

    If this ability was to be miniturised to the likes of a small backpack or even cell phone, many hundreds of coordinated trackers could be deployed easily sorting the background noise and homing in on the real subject. Sort of like the assisted gps style of giving each other known lists of ignorable signals, leaving the heavy processing to the more interesting targets.

    Once apon a time they needed your phone to ring... where we're going we don't need phones.. Great Scots!

  7. Ideala2
    Paris Hilton

    I don't have anything to add...

    just wanted to say i only clicked onto the article because the feed blurb showed DARPA with the asterisk next to it.

    I scrolled the entire article to see what witty name had been given to them this time.

    This latest one is my favourite. ahem.

    Oh and paris, because she knows more about darpa than i do.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    You shall not pass

    Must be a flaming sword R&D project. Bring on the Balrogs!

    Cheney is about as close to a balrog as you have for icons.


  9. ian

    Project GANDALF?

    Is GANDALF an acronym, or is that a secret? I'm surprised it wasn't labelled something like "Aye O'Sauron" or some such.

  10. Harry Stottle

    Could have been much worse...

    It might have been called Project Saruman...

  11. Anonymous Coward


    True wizardry then.

    I agree it seems most likely to be targetted at mobile phones, but maybe also field radios or commercial equivalents. Multipath and interference would seem to make urban deployment very difficult (seeing as it's handheld kit) but perhaps that's the (very complex) problem they're aiming to solve?

    Detection and discrimination of passively reflected signals for geolocation seems, to me, to be impossible in an urban setting. In a more traditional battlefield setting, it's theoretically possible, although extremely difficult, but that doesn't seem to be the aim, given they're after SEI as well as geolocation.

  12. Bounty


    Doesn't DARPA always use acronyms for their project names? Shouldn't we be trying to figure this one out?

    Geolocation AND Accurate Location Finding?

    George's Appliances Need Dramatic Amounts of Lead Framework?

  13. Anonymous Coward

    I guess...

    ...that 'Project Samwise Gamgee' didn't cut it.

  14. Jerng

    boring answer?

    A simpler solution might be to just hack cell phone towers and / or cell phone networks... so that government controlled layers sits on top of the existing software infrastructure... and then pull that "The Dark Knight" or "Eagle Eye" stunt, using (very nicely distributed) "pieces of public infrastructure".

  15. An nonymous Cowerd
    Black Helicopters

    the first few milliseconds

    of any transmission is the signature here, the DARPA hand-held is (probably) basically a real time spectrum analyser with a memory of millions of emitters. It will categorise or allow individuals to be tracked by the switch-on time/frequency/power response of the hardware being followed - each tx has this unique signature, oh, except for my Software Defined Transmitters which can be programmed to 'spoof' the switch-on response of someone

  16. Alan Fisher

    Run, you fools!!

    Really, I think you'd better had, the joke was too much to resist though...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Alan Fisher

    Too much to resist, maybe - but actually, he said "Fly!", not "Run!".

    FAIL! :)

  18. Insane Reindeer
    Black Helicopters


    Do you continuously have to put an asterisk after DARPA and then spell out what it means at the end of the article? It's like you think everyone reading this is a complete dummy!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Re: AC

    Track and ID specific emitters by listening to RF signals, so said emitters would have to be sending out a specific code. AC thought spotting phones was too easy for DARPA, what about if I take a wild guess and suggest this is another stage for the mutli-functional RFID chip? Hard enough now??

    "With our new MapOMatic (TM) you too can get a real-time track and locate of all the foreigners, driving licence holders and anyone else in the detection zone with a chip in their ID/passport simply by flying the black hover-droid overhead (one included free with every 50 portable detectors) and pressing the green button.See what they're up to and who they're meeting without being seen! (Use the mouse and the red button to permanently remove selected threat)."

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ An nonymous Cowerd

    Brag brag blah blah brag blah

  21. Tim
    Black Helicopters

    Dark Riders so no to iPod ID

    Even your iPod emits RF and every RF emission has it's own unique characteristics, so Gandalf will know the unique identity of your iPod.

    News just in ..... I hear Sauron is equipping the Dark Riders with Faraday cage cloaks and has issued orders that all future operations will in be carried under cloud filled skies in the pouring rain, preferably accompanied by heavy lightning.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well I hope Tolkein's

    estate gets some cash from this blatant rip off of a fictional character conjured up in the mind of the great pen smith.

    Detecting the tap, possibly technically impossible, but with a big enough group it could be done.

    I do notice when darpa makes a visit to some of my sites, very nice of them to pop by, and they do tend to be early visitors depending upon what the site is about. They never leave a message though, sometimes I wonder if that's because of something I said :)

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