Michele Ruggiero Banish

Chief Executive Officer

CEO and Co-Founder of Polaris Sensor Technologies, Ms. Banish formed the company as a Principal Investigator of Small Business Innovation Research contracts focused on artificial intelligence and image processing. She is also a specialist in Hypersonic Aero Optical System Modeling. She located Polaris inside an incubator program at the University of Alabama. She developed the accounting and contracting systems that won the approval of the Defense Contracting and Auditing Agency. She rolled out these tools to aid other small businesses.  Polaris is located in a facility in the downtown Huntsville area with large laboratory spaces and an outdoor test platform to facilitate collection of sky polarization signatures and other experiments. During her technical career she has developed software, hardware and optical systems to support research. Under her direction, Polaris has an established and growing patent portfolio. She developed a subsidiary, Knowflame, around novel biochemical technology and products. Today, she is leveraging SBIR developed intellectual property and bringing it to the market through licensing or commercial products.  Prior to founding Polaris, Ms. Banish worked at a number of firms focused on micro machine manufacturing, anti-reflective surface structures for next generation focal planes, and applied research. Ms. Banish received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1987 with a minor in Engineering Management. She received her M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1994. She has a specialty in Applied Optics. She is a holographer.

Dr. David Chenault


Dr. Chenault is a founder of Polaris Sensor Technologies. He 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 in 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, Chenault was selected to be a Fellow of the Society of Photo Instrumentation Engineers(SPIE) and has been Chair or Co-Chair of twelve SPIE conferences in Polarization, and has co-authored special sections on Polarization in Applied Optics and Optical Engineering. 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 completed his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1992.

Dr. Larry Pezzaniti

Chief Technology Officer

Dr Pezzaniti initiates, directs, and manages a large portion of Polaris’ 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, electronic, processing, and analytical specialties that directly lead to the success and customer satisfaction of Polaris R&D and product development efforts. While he routinely develops novel and innovative optical system concepts, lens designs, components, integrated assemblies, he is able to manage and lead multidiscipline teams to implement and complete projects. Dr. Pezzaniti has over 75 journal publications and holds 23 patents and is a collaborative member of research teams at leading universities as well as Army, Air Force and Navy Research Laboratories. Dr. Pezzaniti graduated from the University of Florida and in 1993 completed his Ph.D .at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) under renowned polarization expert Dr. Russell Chipman.

John Harchanko

Director of Engineering

Mr. Harchanko has over 25 years of leadership, management, and engineering/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. In addition to new business development and managing multiple ongoing contracts, he also 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 launched KnowFlame, a spinoff subsidiary. 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.