Today’s invention is a small fan which can be fired up to ensure that raindrops or dust particles can never land on a camera lens whilst it is being used under environmentally challenging circumstances.
The fan speed would be set up so that the biggest, fastest everyday particle would be deflected away from the glassware.
This would probably require the airflow to be directed outwards along an annular tube centred on the camera lens axis.
Normally, such a flow would cause horrible vibrations and result in image blurring, but the fan motor would be controlled so as to blast out a burst of air and then stop when the shutter was actually open.
A cleverer variant on this would use the flash to illuminate oncoming particles and apply real-tme image processing to allow the air stream to change strength according to their size, direction and speed. The lens cover could be deployed automatically if the system sensed imminent damage.
Another development might involve actively heating the fan output in order to create artistic, heat-haze effects in the image.