Currently, the control software of swarm robotics systems is created by ad-hoc development. This makes it hard to deploy these systems in real-world scenarios. In particular, it is difficult to maintain, analyse or verify the systems. Formal methods can contribute to overcoming these problems. However, they usually do not guarantee that the implementation matches the specification, because the system’s control code is typically generated manually. Also, there is cultural resistance to apply formal methods; they may be perceived as an additional step that does not aggregate value to the final product. To address these problems, we propose supervisory control theory for the domain of swarm robotics. The advantages of supervisory control theory, and its associated tools, are a reduction in the amount of ad-hoc development, the automatic generation of control code from modelled specifications, proofs of properties over generated control code, and the reusability of formally designed controllers between different robotics platforms. These advantages are demonstrated in four case studies using the e-puck and Kilobot robot platforms. Experiments with up to 600 physical robots are reported and show that supervisory control theory can be used to formally develop state-of-the-art solutions to a range of problems in swarm robotics.