The paper presents a method for characterising shortwave instability on a vortex dipole. Such instabilities cause the initially straight vortex lines to deform in a sinuous manner. In order to quantify the phenomenon, it is necessary to (a) characterise the vortex dipole and (b) characterise instabilities developed on it. In this study, the vortex dipole characteristics were quantified by using a nonlinear least squares fit to a Lamb-Oseen vortex profile with the velocity field measured by means of particle image velocimetry. The instability was recorded by capturing images of hydrogen bubbles, which were used to mark the vortex centre line, with a CCD camera. It was characterised by applying a fast Fourier transform and seeking dominant wavenumber components and a representative amplitude based on a range of wavenumbers within a bandwidth of interest. The method was tested on simulated and real data. Using the simulated data, the shortwave instability growth rate was calculated with an uncertainty of better than 1% and the mean wavelength deduced with an uncertainty of 5.3%. Using real data, a constant initial growth rate was deduced in agreement with the established theory. Further work might improve the algorithms so that spatial variations in wavelength and growth rate can be determined.