Burney, often called Dennis Burney, was the son of former Admiral of the Fleet Sir Cecil Burney Bt.
Burney was managing director of the private firm that built the R100 airship, where he was assisted by Nevil Shute, later to become famous as a writer. He invented the highly successful Paravane during the First World War a device used for cutting cables from mines. In 1939 he was again joined by Nevil Shute in the development of an early air-launched gliding torpedo, the Toraplane, and the gliding bomb, Doravane. Despite much work and many trials the Toraplane could not be launched with repeatable accuracy and the Toraplane was finally abandoned in 1942.
His private interests led him to set up a company Streamline Cars Ltd to build technically advanced aerodynamic rear-engined cars from 1930 - 1934, that were taken up by Crossley Motors. Among other military weapons, he was the inventor of the squash-head shell (High Explosive Squash Head shell )and the British developer of the recoilless rifle which were known as Burney guns. He demonstrated the advantages of the latter by constructing a recoilless shotgun with a 1 inch bore which he was able to shoot with no discomfort from the recoil. During World War II he led development of what became, in official terms, Ordnance, RCL, 3.45 in.
He succeeded to the Baronetcy in 1929 and was in turn succeeded by his only child.