David, Air France for the longest time has been offering their Business Class passengers leaving from Roissy-CDG a plastic wrap on their checked suitcases - it's quite a nifty process. They put the suitcase into a machine that literally shrink-wraps and seals your suitacse in a tough poly shell (sort of like a very heavy version of Saran Wrap) to protect the finish from scratches and bumps. So this technology is old-hat and if AF can do it, so can any of the others.
But I don't think that addresses the real problem of checking gear, which is internal damage from the way baggage handlers throw around luggage and the way the luggage tumbles through those automated roller and conveyer systems. That is what needs to be addressed. If the security people will maintain restrictions on hand-carried gear, the airlines and airport authorities will have to develop new protocols for the handling of fragile baggage, modify machinery (buffers or whatever) and train handlers to respect the new protocols. It can be done, just as UPS and Fed Ex manage to deliver gear bought from B&H damage-free the world over.
Turning to Fed Ex, I think Fed-Exing this stuff would be a very expensive imposition on traveling professionals, and special arrangements would need to be made so the stuff meets the traveler at the destination airport, otherwise it could be a monumental bureaucratic hassle, as you point out. Too much logistical risk in all that.
Insurance is fine, but if you're off to a workshop or a time-bound professional assignment and the cameras get trashed, the insurance settlement won't get the pictures taken. And the premiums would probably be astronomical and the post-trauma cash recovery from those companies like pulling teeth.
Instead, I think the solution needs to come from the airlines themselves and the security people, devising ways of meeting passengers needs that are both practical and compatible with security. Otherwise, alot of travel photography could well be curtailed - not clear how many will be willing to invest in expensive bags like Pelicans yet stil not be totally comfortable about the internal damage risk.