Our History

Founded in 2003, Polaris Sensor Technologies, Inc. is a leading electro-optic sensor company developing advanced optical systems for applications ranging from military sensors for detection, tracking, and environmental monitoring to navigation, holography, and hypersonic aero-optics. With a variety of customers across the DoD, we develop novel imaging sensors in wavebands from the visible to the long-wave infrared. Starting with only scientific concepts, we have delivered highly specialized sensors funded by the military that have evolved into laboratory instruments as well as small, rugged prototype systems suitable for surveillance, targeting, tracking, environmental monitoring, and inspection. Advanced algorithms and calibration software enable the systems to operate beyond the performance of traditional cameras. Today, the applied research investment exceeds twenty-five million dollars, and our products are being field tested and readied for the commercial market.

We have subject matter experts in the exploitation of polarization, a fundamental attribute of light that reveals details undetected by other imaging devices. Our polarization imagers solve difficult detection and imaging issues for military and commercial applications, and they augment traditional sensors and algorithms for target detection and tracking, chemical detection on water, clutter suppression for ground and air targets, navigation, and even facial recognition. We also have recognized experts in developing instrumentation for characterizing hypersonic aero-optic effects in the nation’s hypersonic wind tunnel and ground test facilities.

Our Management Team

Michele Ruggiero Banish

Chief Executive Officer

As CEO and Co-Founder of Polaris Sensor Technologies, Mrs. Banish formed the company inside an incubator program at the University of Alabama as a PI of SBIR contracts focused on artificial intelligence and image processing. During her technical career, she has developed software, hardware, and optical systems to support research and is a specialist in hypersonic aero-optical system modeling, applied optics, and holography. She developed the accounting and contracting systems that won the approval of the DCAA and rolled out these tools to aid other small businesses. She developed a subsidiary, KnowFlame®, around novel biochemical technology and products. Prior to founding Polaris, she worked at firms that focused on micro machine manufacturing, anti-reflective surface structures for next generation focal planes, and applied research. She received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1987 with a minor in Engineering Management and her M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1994.

As President and Co-Founder of Polaris Sensor Technologies, Dr. Chenault leads a team of 30 scientists and engineers in developing advanced sensors, algorithms, and optical instrumentation for military and commercial customers. Under his leadership, Polaris has a long history in developing optical systems from the visible to the long-wave infrared optical bands that exploit the polarization properties of light. As a result of his contributions to this technology, he was selected to be a Fellow of SPIE and has been Chair or Co-Chair of 13 SPIE conferences in Polarization. He has co-authored special sections on polarization in Applied Optics and Optical Engineering journals. Dr. Chenault received his B.S. in physics from Vanderbilt University in 1986, his M.S. in Physics from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1989, and his Ph.D. in Physics at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1992.

Dr. David Chenault


Dr. Larry Pezzaniti

Chief Technical Officer

As CTO of Polaris Sensor Technologies, Dr. Pezzaniti initiates, directs, and manages a large portion of Polaris’s new technology development. He is a subject matter expert in polarization imaging, micro- and macro-optical system development, and physical aerodynamic optical effects. His breadth of knowledge includes not only optical disciplines, but also mechanical, electrical, processing, and analytical specialties that directly lead to the success and customer satisfaction of Polaris R&D and product development efforts. He has over 75 journal publications, holds 23 patents, and is a collaborative member of research teams at leading universities as well as with the Army, Air Force, and Navy Research Laboratories. He graduated from the University of Florida and in 1993 completed his Ph.D. at the University of Alabama in Huntsville under renowned polarization expert Dr. Russell Chipman.

As Director of Engineering at Polaris Sensor Technologies, Mr. Harchanko has over 25 years of leadership, management, engineering, and research experience in designing and developing optical systems across the UV, visible, SWIR, MWIR, and LWIR wavebands. He is a subject matter expert in optical systems for space, counter-IED for the dismounted soldier, and disturbed earth detection using optical sensors. He performs an extensive amount of algorithm development using conventional and neural network approaches. His forte is optical systems engineering to achieve the optimal balance of sensor hardware and algorithms in order to maximize system performance. The application of these skills helped launch the spinoff subsidiary KnowFlame®. He is the primary, or sole inventor of 7 patents and received his B.S. of Optical Science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1992.

John Harchanko

Director of Engineering